Guest Post by Elii Chapman, Flagstaff Junior Academy, Math and Science Educator and Garden Club Advisor
As the school year came to a conclusion last spring I learned about a fantastic funding possibility for our gardening project at Flagstaff Junior Academy: Flagstaff Neighborhood Sustainability Grants. Our project fits all aspects of the criteria sought:
At the time I wrote the project proposal there were some of these criterion that I did not fully anticipate meeting. Our existing project was a campus garden that had been funded by a grant from Western Growers Foundation. This garden project was built and used the first year by the Sustainability elective class for 5th and 6th grade students. The second year our Orchestra teacher, Mary Allison, certified in Permaculture, joined my science sessions to teach us the principles of Permaculture Systemic Theory. This year, I wanted to extend our growth season and the productivity of our garden project with the addition of a greenhouse. Mary Allison created a shopping list for the grant proposal to the Flagstaff Neighborhood Sustainability Commission. It was approved!
This year, we have an after-school garden club. It is open to all students, but comprised mainly of 5th grade female students and parents from a variety of grades. As the day approached to install the greenhouse, I had heard from one committed parent volunteer, Matt Young, who was bringing his professional builder knowledge and tools. The day before the big day, I heard from a 6th grade parent, Susie Jardine from American Conservation Experience that several newly arrived AmeriCorp members expressed interest in helping. Thank you to the following AmeriCorp Members who came to help:
Morgan Fiorina, Anna Buchanan, Emily Tanner , Selina Burnette, Daniel Brunner, Tristan Joseph , Victoria (Tori) Maurer, Stephany Gonzalez, and Brandon Martinez.
Our new greenhouse was complete that afternoon at 5:10pm! What an amazing day resulting in a fantastic educational resource. We will continue exploration of native plants and climate difference in the Common Garden system, and grow student knowledge of germination and cooperative plant relationships. Our Garden Club will likely grow now too in terms of age and gender!
Increasing the Number of Women in the STEM Workforce
A recent journal article in the Public Library of Science (PLOS) entitled “Women 1.5 Times More Likely to Leave STEM Pipeline after Calculus Compared to Men: Lack of Mathematical Confidence a Potential Culprit”, by J. Ellis, B. Fosdick, and C. Rasmussen, had some fascinating information and conclusions:
In this study, the proportions of students who cited reasons for not entering Calculus II were comparable across men and women, except for one: “I do not believe I understand the ideas of Calculus I well enough to take Calculus II.”
This lack of confidence was cited by 35% of women, and only 14% of men, all of whom originally intended on pursuing a STEM career. Women switching from STEM pathways are citing a lack of understanding of the material in Calculus I as a reason for not continuing their STEM studies significantly more often than men.
An article by K. Piatek-Jimenez, “On the Persistence and Attrition of Women in Mathematics”, states that: “Confidence in mathematical ability may also be a possible reason why women do not choose to pursue mathematics. Women frequently report lower self-confidence in mathematics than their equally talented male peers. This trend is true even amongst the most mathematically talented students.”
Lack of confidence plagues women in other fields as well. "The Confidence Gap", by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, cite a number of studies. Hewlett-Packard found that women applied for a promotion only when they believed they met 100 percent of the qualifications listed for the job; while men applied when they thought they could meet 60 percent of the job requirements. Brenda Major, a social psychologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara, started studying the problem of self-perception decades ago. “I would set up a test where I’d ask men and women how they thought they were going to do on a variety of tasks.” She found that the men consistently overestimated their abilities and subsequent performance, and that the women routinely underestimated both, while the actual performances did not differ in quality. “It is one of the most consistent findings you can have.”
Margie Warrell, in a recent Forbes article, “For Women To Rise We Must Close 'The Confidence Gap' wrote: “…wherever I’ve worked in the world, I’ve consistently that a fundamental lack of belief in our own value, worth and ability to achieve consistently tempers female ambition and holds women back." She cited an eight-year study by Wiebke Bleidorn that analyzed data from over 985,000 men and women across 48 countries, from Norway to New Zealand, Kuwait to South Korea, asking them to rate the phrase: “I see myself as someone who has high self-esteem”, and found that across the board – regardless of culture or country, men have higher self-esteem than women.
“Math for Girls, Math for Boys”, by A.K. Whitney in the Atlantic, stated that only one in ten contestants in the International Math Olympiad are female and many teams have no girls at all. Last year’s U.S. Team, which took gold for the first time in 21 years, was all male. Sherry Gong, who in 2007 was the second American girl in International Math Olympiad history to get the gold medal, recalled getting a pep talk during a competition from her coach. “I thought I was doing really badly, but ... she said girls tend to underestimate how well they are doing.”
What can we do to increase confidence and foster perseverance for all students to succeed in high-level mathematics and STEM studies?
Programs to increase confidence and persistence, as well as STEM skills, are growing in STEM City (aka Flagstaff). Highlighted programs include:
Girls on the Run (GOTR), celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, has a primary goal of increasing self-confidence in young women. See this STEM City blog by Marney Babbitt on how you can participate.
Growth Mindset is being used by a number of teachers in Flagstaff including Elii Chapman, a math and science teacher at Flagstaff Junior Academy, and the runner up for the 2016 Coconino County Teacher of the Year. (Look up Carol Dweck and Angela Duckworth to learn more.)
All-Girl Events/Competitions including all girls’ math or chess tournaments is another way to reduce the social issues that come with young women in competitive environments with young men. The Flagstaff Chess Club will hold its 3rd Annual All Girls Chess Tournament in January, hosted by a strongly supportive Lowell Observatory staff, and including a lunchtime talk by a female astronomer. The Cactus-Pine Girl Scouts have held all girls engineering events, coding workshops, and after-school STEM activities for local students.
With Math I Can is being promoted by FUSD math specialist Jane Gaun, and others. This is a pledge we can all take to not make negative comments about mathematics!
INTEL Math and other math education courses are offered to local math teachers through FUSD and the Coconino County Educational Services Agency (CCESA).
Cash for Calculators is an initiative of FUSD and the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce to encourage businesses to purchase graphing calculators for schools so students can use them during the year and be more prepared for the exams that require these calculators.
Engineering is Elementary (EiE) has design challenges that encourage girls and all students to increase persistence, creativity, confidence, and more. The award-winning curricula from the Museum of Science Boston (MOS) is widely available in Flagstaff. FUSD has two EiE kits at each grade level in all ten elementary schools. Thanks to funding from the Arizona Community Fund of Flagstaff (ACFF), the CCESA has all 20 kits available for K-5 teachers in any school to check out after they have taken the free workshop on using the curricula. STEM City, with funding from ACFF, the W.L. Gore Foundation and the Ernest and Evelyn Chilson Fund, have four out-of-school time kits available to Girl Scout troops, STEM clubs, etc. The nationally-recognized Center for Science Teaching and Learning at NAU is working with Flagstaff's U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Center and the MOS to create three new engineering units with an astrogeology theme and cutting-edge science.
Ready.Set.Code is a Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce initiative working to increase computer and app coding skills in students. Scott Hathcock and cohorts at the Chamber launched Ready.Set.Code with both “Hack the Class”, and the “Summer of Code” events, after least year’s initial coding camps at College America were such a success.
Robotics Camps and Clubs are both growing in Flagstaff. The County Parks and Recreation Department held two lego robotics camps in June and has room available for their two upcoming camps the first week of August. The CocoNuts robotics team leads summer camps for students and has an upcoming camp for adults interested in coaching robotics. The camp is only $20 and is coming July 26 and 27th if you are interested! The Girl Scouts recently hosted a Video Game Design Workshop for 50 girls at NAU. Killip Elementary has a K-2 coding club, FJA has a middle school coding club, and we know that the many schools with robotics teams use coding to get those robots moving!
STEM City has held two free Code.org workshops with master teacher Janice Mak, and also freely loans out instruction materials. STEM City also has engineering kits, bioscience kits, and more, to freely loan out to teachers and home-school parents.
Coconino Community College now offers two engineering courses as well as advanced math and physics, and has an Engineering Pathways grant to increase engineering in middle schools, high schools and at CCC.
Northern Arizona University has a higher percentage of women in science and engineering than most colleges and universities (data coming soon)!
Please contact STEM City if you have programs you would like highlighted in a blog post or in the STEM Community e-letter. And thank you for all you do to increase both skills and confidence in our youth!
Thank you to Melissa Sevigny of KNAU and the Arizona Science and Innovation Desk for the interview on this article and inspiring this post!
Guest Blog by Heather Berginc, Math Teacher and Code Club Advisor at Flagstaff Junior Academy
At Flagstaff Junior Academy's Middle School, each beginning coder begins with Code.org and does an Hour of Code where they learn basics of coding: what it is, what it can do, and the language of code itself. Students quickly graduate to work with Scratch where they go into pre-made games and change aspects of them, or “remix” them. Students can then create their own games and videos.
Most of our students are mastering the skills needed to be a Scratch Master. Every few weeks we share the cool new ideas that we have been working on and once a semester there is a special game/video challenge that students can participate in. Many of our students have recently began working on a new more advanced type of coding at Khan Academy where they can begin to understand the specific language of code. This is my overall goal at FJA. I want students to understand that they are using coding every day, yet rarely do people know how to read or write using this language.
Flagstaff Junior Academy had six students attend CodeDay in Phoenix on February 13th and 14th at the University of Advancing Technology in Phoenix. CodeDay is an event where students of all code levels can work together to build apps and games in just 24 hours. They have mentors and workshops for students learning new aspects of coding. Our students stayed up all night working on their apps and one of our students has a mini-game on the app iTunes store called "Mouse Collision" under the mini-game series "Wiblits".
Special thank you to Scott Hathcock from the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce for assisting us!
STEM City Coordinator Mindy Bell took Swedish science museum educator Kajsa Berg on a tour to some of STEM City's (aka Flagstaff's) STEM education sites. Kajsa is visiting as half of an exchange established by the Swedish-American Chamber of Commerce. 6th grade science teacher Kaci Heins, from Northland Preparatory Academy, is the American half. You can read more about the goals of the exchange at their blog.
We began the tour at Sinagua Middle School. Teachers Gretchen Downey, Carrie Jenkins, Jenna Samora, Kathryn Wertz, and Jillian Worssam showcased student-centered learning in engineering musical instruments with recycled materials, plate tectonics with graham crackers, coding at your own pace, creating models of human systems, and doing investigations with dry ice respectively!
Flagstaff Junior Academy is in the ol' Flagstaff Middle School building by the pond. We visited science and math teachers Elii Chapman, Todd Saunders, and Heather Berginc. Kajsa was taken by the open format of the middle school, popular at the time the school was built!
We had a great time touring STEM City! If you want to know more about great STEM sites to visit in STEM City, please contact the STEM Coordinator.
Barnes & Noble bookstores hosted Mini-Maker Faires the weekend of November 6th - 8th. Scott Hathcock and Amanda Kristinat from the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce taught a coding workshop at our local store.
The Chamber has been actively involved in increasing technology education in Flagstaff through two summer camps (see blog post here) and a Hack the Class initiative at Flagstaff Junior Academy and Killip Elementary School that is expanding to other schools as well.
The Flagstaff Junior Academy Math Team rocked the Math League Championship Qualifying Round in Prescott on February 25, 2015. Evan Belt-Moyer, Ben Andrews, Nikolai Shade and Marlee Stephens, the four members of the team, had a great time doing math for three hours and felt strongly that FJA should participate again next year. The FJA team was only beat by one other team at this competition. In addition, Marlee's scores brought her qualification for participation in the State Championship in May.
Congratulations to Elii Chapman, 5th and 6th grade math and science teacher at Flagstaff Junior Academy, and her super math team!
For more information on Math League, see www.Mathleague.org. The website has many sample math problems. You can also check out Math Counts, another site that offers online math support for students and teachers. www.mathcounts.org
Elii is currently looking for math tutors to help all of her students with their mathematical endeavors. Contact Mindy if you are interested in helping tutor math at Flagstaff Junior Academy.
Elii Chapman is the 5th and 6th grade science and math teacher at Flagstaff Junior Academy. Elii engages in numerous hands-on studies with her students. She recently became a beta tester for Foldscope.
What is Foldscope? Taken from their website: Foldscope is an origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper. Although it costs less than a dollar in parts, it can provide over 2,000X magnification with sub-micron resolution (800nm), weighs less than two nickels (8.8 g), is small enough to fit in a pocket (70 × 20 × 2 mm3), requires no external power, and can survive being dropped from a 3-story building or stepped on by a person. Its minimalistic, scalable design is inherently application-specific instead of general-purpose gearing towards applications in global health, field based citizen science and K12-science education.
Ten thousand beta testers in over 130 countries were chosen to receive 50,000 Foldscopes. As a chosen tester, Elii received 12 Foldscopes. She invited FJA students and their parents to form a family Foldscope Club, and they met on April 11, 2015 to build the foldscopes.
Foldscopes were designed when Manu Prakash and his bioengineering team at Stanford University asked the questions, "What happens to the world if every single kid carries a microscope in his/her pocket? Moreover, what can we achieve in science, medicine, and industry with improved access to microscopes around the globe?"
Foldscopes can be attached to smart phones and the camera function can then take photographic images seen through the scope. These images can be uploaded to the Foldscope image site. The Foldscope Club also has a Pinterest site where you can see some of their images.
Flagstaff STEM Coordinator