Increasing Engagement Through Effective Teaching and Learning: Representations and Fluency

Central Arkansas K-12 math educators participating in “Increasing Engagement Through Effective Teaching and Learning:Representations and Fluency ” PD.  On Tuesday, June 26 UCA STEM Institute partnered with Arch Ford Cooperative to support teachers in their work with Fraction Concepts and connect their instructional practices  to NCTM’s Principles to Actions Essential Teaching and Learning Practices. Team solving the classic sand problem: ¾ of the sand went through a sand timer in 18 minutes. If the rest of the sand goes through at the same rate, how long does it take all the sand to go through the sand timer?

Increasing Engagement Through Effective Teaching and Learning: Establishing Goals and Implementing Task

Central Arkansas K-12 math educators participating in “Increasing Engagement Through Effective Teaching and Learning: Establishing Goals and Implementing Task” PD.  On Monday, June 25, UCA STEM Institute partnered with Arch Ford Cooperative to support teachers in their work with Fraction Concepts and connect their instructional practices  to NCTM’s Principles to Actions Essential Teaching and Learning Practices. Great day working with this team!

Even brief maternal deprivation early in life alters adult brain function and cognition: Rat study

When a baby is taken from its mother for even a brief period early in life, this traumatic event significantly alters the future, adult function of the brain, according to a new animal model study from the School of Science at IUPUI. These changes in the brain are similar to disturbances in brain structure and function that are found in people at risk for neuropsychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.

The study was conducted in the laboratory of associate professor of psychology Christopher Lapish. In the study, young rats were removed from their mothers for 24 hours when they were nine days old, which is a critical period of brain development. The resulting scans revealed that, unlike animals that were not separated from their mother during this crucial period, the separated rats exhibited significant behavioral, as well as biological and physiological, brain abnormalities in adulthood.

“Rat and human brains have similar structure and connectivity,” Lapish said. “Understanding what happens in the brain of a young rat that’s removed from its mother gives us important insight into how this type of early trauma — perhaps comparable to the incarceration of a human mother — affects the young human brain.

“The more we understand how the brain responds, the closer we come to being able to address and hopefully develop novel treatment strategies to reverse these neurological changes.”

“In this study, we found memory impairment, as well as less communication between brain regions, in the animals that had been removed from their mothers, among other neurological changes,” said study corresponding author Sarine Janetsian-Fritz, formerly a graduate student in the Lapish lab and now a postdoctoral fellow in neuropsychology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “These are all clues to how a traumatic event early in life could increase a person’s risk of receiving a schizophrenia diagnosis in the future.”

The causes of schizophrenia and the delay in the appearance of symptoms of this lifelong disease remain a mystery.

“Children exposed to early-life stress or deprivation are at higher risk for mental illness and addictions later in life, including schizophrenia,” said study co-author Brian F. O’Donnell, professor of psychological and brain sciences at IU Bloomington. “We have identified enduring changes in the brain and behavior that result from one type of stress in a rodent. These types of brain changes might mediate the effects of adverse events on children. Thus, policies or interventions that mitigate stress to children could reduce vulnerability to emotional disorders in adulthood.”

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Materials provided by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Hubble detects helium in the atmosphere of an exoplanet for the first time

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have detected helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b. This is the first time this element has been detected in the atmosphere of a planet outside the Solar System. The discovery demonstrates the ability to use infrared spectra to study exoplanet extended atmospheres.

The international team of astronomers, led by Jessica Spake, a PhD student at the University of Exeter in the UK, used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to discover helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b This is the first detection of its kind.

Spake explains the importance of the discovery: “Helium is the second-most common element in the Universe after hydrogen. It is also one of the main constituents of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System. However, up until now helium had not been detected on exoplanets — despite searches for it.”

The team made the detection by analysing the infrared spectrum of the atmosphere of WASP-107b. Previous detections of extended exoplanet atmospheres have been made by studying the spectrum at ultraviolet and optical wavelengths; this detection therefore demonstrates that exoplanet atmospheres can also be studied at longer wavelengths.

“The strong signal from helium we measured demonstrates a new technique to study upper layers of exoplanet atmospheres in a wider range of planets,” says Spake “Current methods, which use ultraviolet light, are limited to the closest exoplanets. We know there is helium in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and this new technique may help us to detect atmospheres around Earth-sized exoplanets — which is very difficult with current technology.”

WASP-107b is one of the lowest density planets known: While the planet is about the same size as Jupiter, it has only 12% of Jupiter’s mass. The exoplanet is about 200 light-years from Earth and takes less than six days to orbit its host star.

The amount of helium detected in the atmosphere of WASP-107b is so large that its upper atmosphere must extend tens of thousands of kilometres out into space. This also makes it the first time that an extended atmosphere has been discovered at infrared wavelengths.

Since its atmosphere is so extended, the planet is losing a significant amount of its atmospheric gases into space — between ~0.1-4% of its atmosphere’s total mass every billion years [2].

As far back as the year 2000, it was predicted that helium would be one of the most readily-detectable gases on giant exoplanets, but until now, searches were unsuccessful.

David Sing, co-author of the study also from the University of Exeter, concludes: “Our new method, along with future telescopes such as the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope/, will allow us to analyse atmospheres of exoplanets in far greater detail than ever before.”


[1] The measurement of an exoplanet’s atmosphere is performed when the planet passes in front of its host star. A tiny portion of the star’s light passes through the exoplanet’s atmosphere, leaving detectable fingerprints in the spectrum of the star. The larger the amount of an element present in the atmosphere, the easier the detection becomes.

[2] Stellar radiation has a significant effect on the rate at which a planet’s atmosphere escapes. The star WASP-107 is highly active, supporting the atmospheric loss. As the atmosphere absorbs radiation it heats up, so the gas rapidly expands and escapes more quickly into space.

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Materials provided by ESA/Hubble Information Centre. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

STEM Enrichment activities have no impact on exam results

Enrichment activities to encourage pupils to study science and technology subjects have made no difference to their performance in mathematics exams, new research shows.

Data shows children who didn’t take part in the activities, run and funded by various governments, private companies and charities, did just as well in GCSE tests.

The STEM enrichment activities have been running to encourage more children to develop science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills, which are vital to the economic growth of the UK. There have long been concerns not enough children are studying these subjects, in contrast to pupils in other nations.

The activities include hands-on fun sessions in laboratories, teacher mentoring and inspiring talks for young people by STEM ambassadors. Their objective is to give young people a better understanding of science and maths; to link science and maths as done in the classroom to STEM done in the real world; and to break the myth held by young people that STEM subjects are only for the “brainy.”

Dr Pallavi Amitava Banerjee, from the University of Exeter’s Graduate School of Education, used the National Pupil Database, government statistics about each school and pupil, to assess the impact of STEM enrichment schemes on how well students performed in mathematics. By looking at five years of data she found that among the 300 schools who participated there was no impact on maths GCSE results.

Dr Banerjee compared GCSE results in 300 state schools where all pupils had participated in STEM enrichment activities since 2007 to a comparator group of all other secondary schools. A grade of C or above in maths was considered a success. Comparator schools had a slightly lower figure of students doing well at mathematics at first, but results soon caught up with those at schools who were taking part in intervention activities.

The comparator group had a slightly higher proportion of pupils with free school meals, and the study did not find evidence that STEM interventions improved outcomes for less advantaged students.

“Of course attainment is only one indication of the success of these programmes, but it important because students are more likely to continue to study STEM subjects when they get higher grades. Good attainment in mathematics is also a pre-requisite for admission to STEM degree courses,” Dr Banerjee said.

All the activities considered as part of the study were delivered as after-school clubs, competitions, or out-reach programmes, and were run during Key Stage 3 and 4. Activities run by ten providers were considered for the study, and children took part from the beginning of year 7 until they took their GCSEs. Eight of these were government organisations, one was an educational charity, and one received public funding.

National Pupil Database data from 2007 to 2011/12 for GCSEs and 2013/14 for A-levels was used in the study. All special schools, pupil referral units, and independent schools were excluded from the study. State maintained schools included were academies, city technology colleges, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled, and foundation schools.

Dr Banerjee said: “It is important to state that these enrichment activities can be fantastic, but the study did not find a direct impact on results and further research should be carried out to find out why.”

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Materials provided by University of Exeter. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

UCA STEM Institute at the National Council for History Education (NCHE) –  April 18-21, 2018

UCA STEM Institute at the National Council for History Education (NCHE) –  April 18-21, 2018

Working with Library of Congress (LC) Teaching with Primary Sources (TPS) Midwest Regional program, UCA STEM Institute was invited for a poster presentation at the NCHE National Conference in San Antonio, TX.

As a past project director from the Midwest regions, Dr Garimella presented the project titled “This is Our Town: Using Geocaching as a Portal to Cross-curriculum Teaching in the Classroom” and participated in collaboration, networking, & grant writing workshop.


Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Girls of Promise Conference – 2018

The STEM institute participated in the 2018 Women’s Foundation of Arkansas Girls of Promise Conference on April 13th. Girls of Promise is an annual conference held in Little Rock, Arkansas for 150 eighth-grade girls from across the state designed to provide, equip, and empower those who attend to continue pursuing and exploring careers in STEM fields. A table of interactive components was displayed in our exhibit space where students actively participated as they explored different aspects of STEM careers.  Some of the favorite activities the girls explored together were electrical in nature, working with the Little Bits circuitry and Energy Sticks. They enjoyed competing to find solutions to a toothpick mathematical equation puzzle. The young ladies were eager to remind their teachers to check out classroom manipulatives at their local STEM Centers.

Company Leaders Look to Kids for STEM Workforce

Encouraging STEM education at a younger age will build the skill sets needed in an increasingly tech-savvy world. 

TO FILL THE TECH JOBS of the future, company and nonprofit leaders advise employers to train ’em while they’re young.

At a panel about filling future science, technology, engineering and math job needs during the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions: Workforce of Tomorrow conference on Friday, Vince Bertram, president and CEO of nonprofit Project Lead the Way, said as more and more companies become tech-enabled, businesses need to support measures that will encourage students early on to pursue STEM-related studies – and later STEM careers – so that they will have a supply of workers to fill ever-growing job demands.

“As we think of STEM education … STEM is the foundation of our economy – it connects to everything. It’s not these discrete subjects, but a more integrative approach to education,” Bertram said during the session, which was moderated by Potoula Gjidija, associate director of corporate citizenship for biotech company Regeneron. “We have to make learning relevant to students … It’s not enough to make math worksheets.”

Bertram was joined on the panel by Patrick Barnes, program director for John Deere’s Global Youth Education program; Jon Chapman, co-founder and president of global partnerships for EVERFI, an education technology company; and Jennifer Taylor, vice president of U.S. Jobs for the Consumer Technology Association.

Taylor, pointing toward tech companies like Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google, echoed Bertram and said promoting STEM education now will go toward filling the gap between the thousands of STEM-related job opportunities and the relatively small supply of skilled candidates.

“We don’t even know what jobs are about to present themselves, and we also know that … it is imperative that we are teaching our youth how to be digitally savvy and have the tech skills that they need so that they have those critical thinking skills,” Taylor said.

And, Barnes pointed out, the idea of businesses promoting or supporting STEM education doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to support students through a four-year college program. At John Deere, for example, Barnes said they offer some training programs, and graduates who complete the curriculum successfully are offered a job interview with the company.

“Welders, electricians – it’s so hard to fill those jobs today,” said Barnes.

As for addressing the opportunity gaps for underrepresented students, all four panelists agreed that, to make the fields more approachable for everyone, they have to offer training and education programs consistently across America, including in areas with low expectations for students. This would help to encourage a growth mindset – the concept that you continue to learn, and failure is OK – to break down those barriers.

Women in STEM: ‘Change the World Like a Girl’

Although progress has been made for women in the STEM fields, more can be done to increase their presence.

MARY ADAMS WANTS YOU TO “Change the world like a girl.” Adams, the co-founder and program manager of Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative, is just one woman leading the way in the field of science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM.

Adams, along with other influential women leaders in STEM, spoke at the Bringing More Women into the Fold in STEM session during the U.S. News & World Report STEM Solutions: Workforce of Tomorrow conference in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

GPS for Physical Science/Chemistry: Navigating from Standards to Instruction

Come experience the vision for the high school science!  *NEW LESSON EXPERIENCES & PHENOMENA*
During this three-day opportunity, educators will engage in phenomenon-based investigation aligned to the new Physical Science-Integrated and Chemistry-Integrated courses. Student-focused learning through the application of science, math and literacy skills will be highlighted.

  • Two follow-up PD days will be offered along with opportunities for classroom-level support.
  • Participation in all three days of this session meets the ADE requirement for Pre-Advanced Placement Science (Pre-AP) teacher certification or recertification.
  • TESS components addressed for this workshop include:  1a, 1d, 1e, 3a-e, 4a, 4e

GPS for Physical Science/Chemistry: Navigating from Standards to Instruction
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 – Thursday, June 28, 2018
8:30 am -3:30 pm
Grades 9 – 12
Cost:  FREE

Click here to register for 3 days GPS PS/Chem Workshop