STEM Beats - July 2015

The Teacher Draft

July 31, 2015

Imagine a world where teachers make announcements a la Lebron James when they change schools. Or where the best of the best are celebrated in a recruitment event tantamount to the NBA draft. Or, dare to dream, that they are celebrated with salaries that would make Tiger Woods blush. Imagine no more.  In the latest hilarious video from Key & Peele, the eponymous comedy duo bring us "Teaching Center" which is the most wonderful parody of Sports Center we've ever seen. "Just like that, you're a millionaire."

Tags: teachers

STEM in the Summer: Hot Three National Parks

July 28, 2015

In the second installment of our “hot three” STEM in the Summer series, we’re highlighting three national parks that turn the great outdoors into a science laboratory.

More than 275 million visitors flock to America’s national parks every year to enjoy the great outdoors and historic landmarks. Did you know that the National Park Service also offers terrific STEM educational programs for young people?

Since the National Recreation and Park Association is celebrating 30 years of Park and Recreation Month in July, there’s no better time to find a park destination to explore. At these three parks, kids can have a blast while engaging in activities that can help head off the summer slide in STEM learning:

Lassen Volcanic National Park, CA
There’s something for everyone to discover in this park—steaming fumaroles, wildflower meadows, clear mountain lakes and numerous volcanoes. The steam vents, boiling pools and mudpots conjure Harry Potter. Plus, the secluded park is a sanctuary of natural darkness, with ranger-led Starry Night programs and a Dark Sky Festival for stargazers and astronomers in August.

Congaree National Park, SC
“Astonishing biodiversity” is the calling card of this park, a deciduous forest with tall, old-growth grand bald cypress, water tupelo and loblolly pine trees thriving amidst the Congaree and Wateree rivers. Hiking along a 2.4-mile loop, kids can investigate “creepy crawlies”—insects, spiders and other arthropods—in the forest, play a hide-and-seek or scavenger hunt game to find hidden treasures, and identify and learn about how the trees grow in this floodplain. Kids can track their adventures on the National Park Service website—and earn prizes and “virtual medals.” The adventures are part of the National Park Service’s Kids in Parks program, which has more than 130 trails in seven states and Washington, D.C.

Glacier National Park, MT
This million-acre park is a natural playground with pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains and spectacular lakes. It also hosts more than 1,000 different types of plants—and 20 highly invasive, non-native plants. That’s where a robust STEM learning experience comes in. Park visitors can join the Invasive Plant Citizen Science Project to help the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center detect and report the locations of targeted invasive plants. Before participating in this project, citizen scientists must complete online or in-person training. Glacier National Park has similar projects to track mountain goats, pikas and bighorn sheep—and, in the spring, common loons. Citizen Science opportunities are available at national parks across the country.

If you’re planning ahead, a new Every Kid in a Park initiative will offer free admission to national parks for all fourth-grade students and their families for a full year, starting this coming school year. Launched by President Obama, the initiative encourages kids and families to enjoy America’s public lands and waters, and will provide families and educators with educational materials. The initiative also will provide transportation funds for under-served students to get to the parks.

Tags: science

STEMtistic on Display: Tough Classes Pay Off

July 22, 2015

Being a successful in your STEM major requires a strong K-12 foundation in science and math. We’re seeing a disappointing number of unprepared college freshmen who get discouraged and end up switching out of STEM majors. Giving kids a good start in STEM is the answer –  let’s make it happen. 

Don’t forget to check out our all of our STEMtistics to find more facts on STEM!

Source: Achieve, Rising to the Challenge, 2014.

Tags: math, higher education, STEMtistics

Check Out Our New STEMworks Programs!

July 22, 2015

When we sent out a call for applications to STEMworks, our honor role of the nation's top STEM education programs, who knew we would end up with such an embarassement of riches? This year, eleven--count 'em, eleven--programs made it over our high bar. Roughly twice as many didn't, but we feel very lucky to promote this new bumper crop of programs that are changing young people's lives.

It certainly didn't hurt that we partnered with Colorado STEM to identify programs that are making a difference in Colorado. A slate of Colorado reviewers trained in STEMworks's rigorous review process went through a stack of applications and found seven programs that met STEMworks's stiff requirements. Three Colorado programs have achieved a coveted "Accomplished" rating:

  • Kic-Net, a program that engages Colorado students in solving real-life environmental challenges in their communities;
  • RAFT, which collaborates with Colorado businesses, community members, and educators to provide challenging, affordable, and fun STEM hands-on activities to teachers; and
  • Urban Advantage Metro Denver, an out-of-school program that gets middle school students doing hands-on science and connects them to STEM professionals.

Four other Colorado programs are "Promising":

  • Denver Public Schools CareerConnect, which combines hands-on STEM classes with work-based learning opportnities to connect with more than 25 Colorado employers;
  • KidsTek, which brings project-based after-school technology education programs to K-8 schools and credit-bearing technical certification programs to high schools;
  • Moving GIS into the Classroom, which trains teachers to help students use geospatial technology to collect data, analyze information, and present conclusions using spatial concepts; and
  • St Vrain Valley Schools STEM and Innovation Center, which prepares students for successful STEM careers by partnering with industry to provide real world work experiences.

CTEq also welcomed four more programs through our national STEMworks Initiative. One is "Accomplished":

  • The MATHCOUNTS Video Challenge, which empowers students to be math teachers, video producers, actors and teammates by creating videos that explain and solve challenging real-world math problems.

The other three are "Promising":

With these new programs on board, STEMworks now features more than 75 of the nation's best learning opportunities in STEM. At a time when the world is awash in STEM programs that make grand claims for their effectiveness, you know that these very carefully vetted programs will give you your money's worth.

Tags: STEMworks

STEM in the Summer: Hot Three Planetariums

July 20, 2015

Interested in checking out cool STEM sights with your family this summer? We’re kicking off a “hot three” STEM series to help avoid the Summer STEM slide -- the learning slump that occurs over the summer when many kids put the books aside –- and have a little fun along the way. This week, we’ll take a look at three of the hottest planetariums around so you can get your space STEM on!

Clark Planetarium -- Salt Lake City
Clark Planetarium’s IMAX theatre, dome theatre, and awesome Cosmic Light shows set it apart. Clark’s Hansen Dome Theatre is 360-degrees of immersive entertainment with 3-D computer animation that lets you explore the universe in unimaginable ways. There are currently seven 360-degree shows and four IMAX shows playing that cover a range of topics -- a journey to space, the mystery of the black hole, and an exploration of the cosmos. Clark also offers a variety of free exhibits from an actual moon sample returned by the astronauts of Apollo 15 to an interactive exhibit that explains eclipses --one of nature’s greatest phenomena. 

Science on a Sphere Exhibit (credit:

ExploraDome at the Bell Museum of Natural History -- Minneapolis
A sight to see, the ExploraDome offers a unique learning environment for all ages. The ExploraDome is a portable, virtual theatre that holds up to 15 people. Guests lay down on the carpeted floor and are surrounded by a theatre wall that projects different planetarium shows – talk about an interactive experience! It’s an opportunity for visitors to virtually travel from inside the subatomic realm to the edge of the known universe. The ExploraDome experience is like no other. But, if you can’t make it to Minnesota this summer, rest assured, because it’s a mobile theatre it may be in a neighborhood near you sometime soon. 

ExploraDome (credit:

Strasenburgh Planetarium -- Rochester
If you’re in upstate New York this summer, don’t miss the Strasenburgh Planetarium. It’s equipped with a 225-seat Star Theater that projects a variety of shows onto a 65-foot dome. Strasenburgh’s star projector offers awe-inspiring star shows that take you through the wonders of the universe under perfect viewing conditions from any point on Earth. While you’re there, don’t forget to check out the Saturday night telescope viewing, which allows you to see the sky through telescopes operated by the Rochester Academy of Science.

Star Projector (credit:

There’s lot of STEM activities to get into this summer -- fill up your tank, grab the kids, and slide STEM into your summer fun. Check back for our features on other STEM destinations, too. 

Tags: science