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Questions for the Revolution A Major Untapped Resource: Modeler was working in an industrial chemistry laboratory when the first single-pan analytical balances were introduced. He still had to return to college labs where swings were counted for weighing on two-pan analytical balances. Few high schools at the time had progressed beyond two-pan platform balances. The science-rich discover new knowledge, construct new designs, and get new equipment long before any hint of this progress reaches high school STEM classrooms. The dichotomy today between the science-rich and the science-poor is even more pronounced. While high school students are struggling with recognizing they have extracted DNA from a sample, CRISPR is saving fruit crops and may soon be saving human lives directly. Connecting the two events presents challenges to some biology teachers and to many other STEM teachers, who find themselves in biology classrooms. STEM Specialists from the science-rich communities have up-to-date knowledge, skills, and access to the artifacts of current practice that could enrich STEM classroom activities as few teachers can do alone.

Can arrangements be devised that enable individual STEM Specialists, who are engaged daily in research and applications, to donate a few hours per year to connect their expertise to a high school classroom and change the lives of a few students and enrich the knowledge of a few teachers? ⇒A STEM System⇐ Seeks to address this question.

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Courses to Match the Multidisciplinary Nature of STEM: Physics is touted as the foundation science; chemistry as the central science; and biology as the science of life. In practice, the sciences are intertwined in complex ways, even for many simple systems. Yet, the courses usually are taught as though they are independent and students are left to meld the contents into something applicable and meaningful to modern life and/or career decisions. The most common course sequencing seems to be biology for 9th graders. chemistry for 10th graders, and physics for juniors, to give a triumvirate of basic courses. For students seeking STEM careers, some schools offer many additional courses, while other schools cannot even enable students to complete the triumvirate. Over the past 70 years, several science educators have suggested other course arrangements. Some schools have varied the sequencing of courses. A few educators have even suggested melding the courses into Science1, Science 2, and Science 3, with little success. Thus, it is common for a student to graduate from high school without ever taking physics; some miss chemistry as well. Now, engineering needs to be added to the school science program.

Can arrangements be made to meld the basic science courses with engineering to accommodate the multidisciplinary nature of STEM and to enable students to have some familiarity with all the triumvirate and engineering whenever they leave the course sequence? ⇒A STEM System⇐ Seeks to address this question.

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Uniqueness: That students in a single class can differ radically in readiness for that class, motivation, learning styles, and abilities has never been a secret. Teachers are expected to find ways to address the unique needs of perhaps 150 individual students each day in a fixed time frame within a set of standards. Manufacturers accommodate their variety of demands by design and carefully planning ahead of the need so the assembly line for inanimate and unchanging objects functions smoothly. Teachers have to await the arrival of the new models (students) to redesign teaching strategies to meet real needs as the living model changes continually, sometimes on a daily basis. Teachers also are unique, with specific content preparation, experience, attitude, and abilities to relate effectively with students. STEM teachers also may be tasked with staying current with some aspects of the changing worlds of science and technology.

Can arrangements be devised to accommodate the uniqueness of students and the limitations of teachers and the school environment? ⇒A STEM System⇐ Seeks to address this question.

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Real STEM Experiences While Learning: Hands-on learning through laboratory experiments has been a mainstay of science education at all levels for more than a century. Many teachers are finding students respond very well to expanding the “lab experiment” to “projects” of larger ad less well-defined scope. Project-based learning offers the opportunity of knowledge and skill development through “learning-onthe-job.” Implementation problems arise quickly as most projects quickly become multidisciplinary and may need more content capability than available to a teacher. Also, if all students lack basic skills needed for the project, the teacher may need to revert to simple experiments and take much extra time to teach fundamental knowledge/skills with a concomitant reduction in motivation that accompanied the initial assignment. Projects also require planning and progress evaluation by students and/or teachers that is not needed for “cookbook” standard experiments. Such planning/evaluation skills are much needed for advanced study and the workplace.

Can an arrangement be devised that accommodates projects as effective and efficient activities for STEM education throughout the high school period? ⇒A STEM System⇐ Seeks to address this question.

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Peer Instruction: Modeler experienced peer instruction as the major instructional tactic for his high school physics course. A resignation and a reassignment left a 7-person physics class of juniors and seniors with a mostly absentee teacher. The teacher gave a test on 2-3 week intervals and gave chapter assignments in a popular physics textbook of the time. The five class members who pursued STEM majors suffered no unusual burden in subsequent collegiate-level physics courses from the totally ad hoc peer instruction. Three gave lengthy service as full-time teachers during their careers. Peer teaching advances both the “learner” and the “teacher,” by: 1. Increasing achievement and motivation. 2. Facilitating student practice and improvement of teaching skills. 3. Giving students direct responsibility for learning. 4. Supporting student retention and cooperative behavior. 5. Providing leadership opportunities for “tutors” and a model for “learners.” 6. Encouraging “tutors” to deepen their own learning, while giving “learners” additional paths to success. 7. Supporting teachers’ efforts to remediate “learner” needs. 8. Encouraging consideration of teaching careers.

Can an arrangement be devised that enables effective peer instruction to both enhance learning and reduce teacher stress? ⇒A STEM System⇐ Seeks to address this question.

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Some Additional Specific Big Questions 1. How can students in the classroom be connected the real world of STEM work?

2. How can students, who have never been given real responsibility, be developed to relish responsibility? 3. How can students who do not how to use a screwdriver be enabled as skilled tool users? 4. How are students schooled in not using their classmates’ work be developed as strong team members? 5. How are students who are lackadaisical for the first 60% of their high school STEM course time be made 100% capable in STEM performance in the remaining 40% of time, when they decide they want to become a scientist or engineer?

6. How can high school students captivated by entertainers, sports, medical practices, and law enforcement be made aware of the distinctive differences between scientists, engineers, technicians, and crafters and the educational requirements of the different STEM areas? ⇒A STEM System⇐ Seeks to address these questions.

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7. How do STEM students from schools with inadequately prepared teachers, few supplies, and marginal lab facilities become competitive with colleagues from schools with outstanding teachers and excellent labs? 8. How do STEM students without transportation, with incomes required for family survival, and no discretionary money gain some of the advantages of those having transportation when desired, discretionary time for extracurricular STEM activities, and discretionary funds? 9. How can major advances in science and engineering be used to motivate and inform high school students in a timely fashion? ⇒A STEM System⇐ Seeks to address these questions.

Chapter 2  
Chapter 2