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The Educational Value of Art Museum Field Trips

Good read! This short article taken from the Peer Reviewed Journal, Education Next, discusses the benefits of art education and field trips.  Specifically, the implication and benefits for low income and rural schools. This study shows how students, when exposed to art, through a guided tour at a well known museum, became more critical and creative thinkers and increased their interest in art museums.  Studies like this will help put the ‘A’ into STEM!!ednext_XIV_1_cover_small

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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Articles, Resources

 

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Five Leadership Lessons From James T. Kirk

Original article written written by Alex Knapp.

Captain James T. Kirk is one of the most famous Captains in the history of Starfleet. There’s a good reason for that. He saved the planet Earth several times, stopped the Doomsday Machine, helped negotiate peace with the Klingon Empire, kept the balance of power between the Federation and the Romulan Empire, and even managed to fight Nazis. On his five-year mission commanding the U.S.S. Enterprise, as well as subsequent commands, James T. Kirk was a quintessential leader, who led his crew into the unknown and continued to succeed time and time again.

Kirk’s success was no fluke, either. His style of command demonstrates a keen understanding of leadership and how to maintain a team that succeeds time and time again, regardless of the dangers faced.  Here are five of the key leadership lessons that you can take away from Captain Kirk as you pilot your own organization into unknown futures.

1. Never Stop Learning

“You know the greatest danger facing us is ourselves, an irrational fear of the unknown. But there’s no such thing as the unknown– only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.”

Captain Kirk may have a reputation as a suave ladies man, but don’t let that exterior cool fool you. Kirk’s reputation at the Academy was that of a “walking stack of books,” in the words of his former first officer, Gary Mitchell. And a passion for learning helped him through several missions. Perhaps the best demonstration of this is in the episode “Arena,” where Kirk is forced to fight a Gorn Captain in single combat by advanced beings. Using his own knowledge and materials at hand, Kirk is able to build a rudimentary shotgun, which he uses to defeat the Gorn.

If you think about it, there’s no need for a 23rd Century Starship Captain to know how to mix and prepare gunpowder if the occasion called for it. After all, Starfleet officers fight with phasers and photon torpedoes. To them, gunpowder is obsolete. But the same drive for knowledge that drove Kirk to the stars also caused him to learn that bit of information, and it paid off several years later.

In the same way, no matter what your organization does, it helps to never stop learning. The more knowledge you have, the more creative you can be. The more you’re able to do, the more solutions you have for problems at your disposal. Sure, you might never have to face down a reptilian alien on a desert planet, but you never know what the future holds. Knowledge is your best key to overcoming whatever obstacles are in your way.

2. Have Advisors With Different Worldviews

“One of the advantages of being a captain, Doctor, is being able to ask for advice without necessarily having to take it.”

Kirk’s closest two advisors are Commander Spock, a Vulcan committed to a philosophy of logic, and Dr. Leonard McCoy, a human driven by compassion and scientific curiosity. Both Spock and McCoy are frequently at odds with each other, recommended different courses of action and bringing very different types of arguments to bear in defense of those points of view. Kirk sometimes goes with one, or the other, or sometimes takes their advice as a springboard to developing an entirely different course of action.

However, the very fact that Kirk has advisors who have a different worldview not only from each other, but also from himself, is a clear demonstration of Kirk’s confidence in himself as a leader. Weak leaders surround themselves with yes men who are afraid to argue with them. That fosters an organizational culture that stifles creativity and innovation, and leaves members of the organization afraid to speak up. That can leave the organization unable to solve problems or change course. Historically, this has led to some serious disasters, such as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Organizations that allow for differences of opinion are better at developing innovation, better at solving problems, and better at avoiding groupthink. We all need a McCoy and a Spock in our lives and organizations.

3. Be Part Of The Away Team

“Risk is our business. That’s what this starship is all about. That’s why we’re aboard her.”

Whenever an interesting or challenging mission came up, Kirk was always willing to put himself in harm’s way by joining the Away Team. With his boots on the ground, he was always able to make quick assessments of the situation, leading to superior results. At least, superior for everyone with a name and not wearing a red shirt. Kirk was very much a hands-on leader, leading the vanguard of his crew as they explored interesting and dangerous situations.

When you’re in a leadership role, it’s sometimes easy to let yourself get away from leading Away Team missions. After all, with leadership comes perks, right? You get the nice office on the higher floor. You finally get an assistant to help you with day to day activities, and your days are filled with meetings and decisions to be made, And many of these things are absolutely necessary. But it’s sometimes easy to trap yourself in the corner office and forget what life is like on the front lines. When you lose that perspective, it’s that much harder to understand what your team is doing, and the best way to get out of the problem. What’s more, when you’re not involved with your team, it’s easy to lose their trust and have them gripe about how they don’t understand what the job is like.

This is a lesson that was actually imprinted on me in one of my first jobs, making pizzas for a franchise that doesn’t exist anymore. Our general manager spent a lot of time in his office, focused on the paperwork and making sure that we could stay afloat on the razor-thin margins we were running. But one thing he made sure to do, every day, was to come out during peak times and help make pizza. He didn’t have to do that, but he did. The fact that he did so made me like him a lot more. It also meant that I trusted his decisions a lot more. In much the same way, I’m sure, as Kirk’s crew trusted his decisions, because he knew the risks of command personally.

4. Play Poker, Not Chess

“Not chess, Mr. Spock. Poker. Do you know the game?”

In one of my all-time favorite Star Trek episodes, Kirk and his crew face down an unknown vessel from a group calling themselves the “First Federation.”  Threats from the vessel escalate until it seems that the destruction of the Enterprise is imminent. Kirk asks Spock for options, who replies that the Enterprise has been playing a game of chess, and now there are no winning moves left. Kirk counters that they shouldn’t play chess – they should play poker. He then bluffs the ship by telling them that the Enterprise has a substance in its hull called “corbomite” which will reflect the energy of any weapon back against an attacker. This begins a series of actions that enables the Enterprise crew to establish peaceful relations with the First Federation.

I love chess as much as the next geek, but chess is often taken too seriously as a metaphor for leadership strategy. For all of its intricacies, chess is a game of defined rules that can be mathematically determined. It’s ultimately a game of boxes and limitations. A far better analogy to strategy is poker, not chess. Life is a game of probabilities, not defined rules. And often understanding your opponents is a much greater advantage than the cards you have in your hand. It was knowledge of his opponent that allowed Kirk to defeat Khan in Star Trek II by exploiting Khan’s two-dimensional thinking. Bluffs, tells, and bets are all a big part of real-life strategy. Playing that strategy with an eye to the psychology of our competitors, not just the rules and circumstances of the game  can often lead to better outcomes than following the rigid lines of chess.

5. Blow up the Enterprise

“‘All I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.’ You could feel the wind at your back in those days. The sounds of the sea beneath you, and even if you take away the wind and the water it’s still the same. The ship is yours. You can feel her. And the stars are still there, Bones.”

One recurring theme in the original Star Trek series is that Kirk’s first love is the Enterprise. That love kept him from succumbing to the mind-controlling spores in “This Side of Paradise,” and it’s hinted that his love for the ship kept him from forming any real relationships or starting a family. Despite that love, though, there came a point in Star Trek III: The Search For Spock, where Captain Kirk made a decision that must have pained him enormously – in order to defeat the Klingons attacking him and save his crew, James Kirk destroyed the Enterprise. The occasion, in the film, was treated with the solemnity of a funeral, which no doubt matched Kirk’s mood. The film ends with the crew returning to Vulcan on a stolen Klingon vessel, rather than the Enterprise. But they returned victorious.

We are often, in our roles as leaders, driven by a passion. It might be a product or service, it might be a way of doing things. But no matter how much that passion burns within us, the reality is that times change. Different products are created. Different ways of doing things are developed. And there will come times in your life when that passion isn’t viable anymore. A time when it no longer makes sense to pursue your passion. When that happens, no matter how painful it is, you need to blow up the Enterprise. That is, change what isn’t working and embark on a new path, even if that means having to live in a Klingon ship for awhile.

Final Takeaway:

In his many years of service to the Federation, James Kirk embodied several leadership lessons that we can use in our own lives. We need to keep exploring and learning. We need to ensure that we encourage creativity and innovation by listening to the advice of people with vastly different opinions. We need to occasionally get down in the trenches with the members of our teams so we understand their needs and earn their trust and loyalty. We need to understand the psychology of our competitors and also learn to radically change course when circumstances dictate. By following these lessons, we can lead our organizations into places where none have gone before.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Articles, Resources

 

Self Esteem in Learning

As a teacher, I hear the phrase, “I can’t do it” or various forms of “I won’t do it” when introducing or learning a new topic.  I have found that these phrases are often linked with low self esteem.

Healthy self-esteem is a child’s weapon against the challenges of the world. Kids who feel good about themselves seem to have an easier time handling conflicts and resisting negative pressures. They tend to smile more readily and enjoy life. These kids are realistic and generally optimistic.

In contrast, kids with low self-esteem can find challenges to be sources of major anxiety and frustration. Those who think poorly of themselves have a hard time finding solutions to problems. Faced with a new challenge, their immediate response is “I can’t.”  Kids with low self-esteem may not want to try new things, and may frequently speak negatively about themselves: “I’m stupid,” “I’ll never learn how to do this,” or “What’s the point? Nobody cares about me anyway.” They may exhibit a low tolerance for frustration, giving up easily or waiting for somebody else to take over. They tend to be overly critical of and easily disappointed in themselves.

A School – Home, Teacher – Parent, collaboration is necessary to improve a students self esteem around learning.  These are a few tips I feel are important:

  • Watch what you say. Kids are very sensitive to parents’ words. Remember to praise your child not only for a job well done, but also for effort. But be truthful. For example, if your child doesn’t make the soccer team, avoid saying something like, “Well, next time you’ll work harder and make it.” Instead, try “Well, you didn’t make the team, but I’m really proud of the effort you put into it.” Reward effort and completion instead of outcome.
  • Be a positive role model. If you’re excessively harsh on yourself, pessimistic, or unrealistic about your abilities and limitations, your child may eventually mirror you. Nurture your own self-esteem, and your child will have a great role model.
  • Identify and redirect your child’s inaccurate beliefs. It’s important for parents to identify kids’ irrational beliefs about themselves, whether they’re about perfection, attractiveness, ability, or anything else. Helping kids set more accurate standards and be more realistic in evaluating themselves will help them have a healthy self-concept. Inaccurate perceptions of self can take root and become reality to kids. For example, a child who does very well in school but struggles with math may say, “I can’t do math. I’m a bad student.” Not only is this a false generalization, it’s also a belief that will set the child up for failure. Encourage kids to see a situation in its true light. A helpful response might be: “You are a good student. You do great in school. Math is just a subject that you need to spend more time on. We’ll work on it together.”
  • Be spontaneous and affectionate. Your love will go a long way to boost your child’s self-esteem. Give hugs and tell kids you’re proud of them. Pop a note in your child’s lunchbox that reads, “I think you’re terrific!” Give praise frequently and honestly, without overdoing it. Kids can tell whether something comes from the heart.
  • Give positive, accurate feedback. Comments like “You always work yourself up into such a frenzy!” will make kids feel like they have no control over their outbursts. A better statement is, “You were really mad at your brother. But I appreciate that you didn’t yell at him or hit him.” This acknowledges a child’s feelings, rewards the choice made, and encourages the child to make the right choice again next time.
  • Create a safe, loving home environment.  A child who is exposed to parents who fight and argue repeatedly may become depressed and withdrawn. Also watch for signs of abuse by others, problems in school, trouble with peers, and other factors that may affect kids’ self-esteem. Deal with these issues sensitively but swiftly. And always remember to respect your kids.
  • Help kids become involved in constructive experiences.Activities that encourage cooperation rather than competition are especially helpful in fostering self-esteem. For example, mentoring programs in which an older child helps a younger one learn to read can do wonders for both kids.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2012 in Articles, Resources

 

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Elementary STEM Education

 Increasing science, technology, engineering and math subjects at the elementary    level is a hot topic of discussion among those in the education field. Many  teachers and administrators acknowledge that change is needed, however, little is  actually being done.  In a 2011 article from, The Lawrence Hall of Science at Berkley, alarming facts regarding elementary science education were reported:

“Forty percent of elementary teachers say they spend just 60 minutes or less teaching science each week. Just one-third of elementary teachers say they feel prepared to teach science, but 85 percent of teachers say they have not received any professional development in science during the last three years. And while nine in ten principals say science education is very important and should start early, less than half of principals (44%) believe it is likely that a student would receive high-quality science instruction in his or her school.”

 So, how do we change these discussions for change into an actuality? I believe teacher training programs and certification programs are essential for change.  In contrary to high school teachers, elementary teachers (who possess a multi-subject teaching credential) do not receive any formal science training.  Traditionally, science education has been emphasized at 9-12 levels and therefore the majority of training programs, grants and professional workshops has been on those grade levels and teachers.  However, research supports the earlier students are introduced to STEM topics, the increased likelihood of those students pursuing a STEM career later in life.  New research states STEM training needs to be embedded into credentialing programs, and current teachers need to be given the proper resources, materials and funds to teacher science effectively!

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2012 in Articles, Resources

 

Paid Internship for Teachers – Summer 2012

Looking for something to do this summer?

Who can participate? 5th grade teachers or 9-12th grade teachers

Pay: $32/hr

Time commitment: 6-8 weeks – 40/hrs a week

Description: The Summer Research Internship Program for Teachers at The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla was created to expose teachers in current laboratory techniques and procedures, provide information on a variety of contemporary issues in basic biomedical research, develop relationships with working scientists who can assist them in curriculum development, and create opportunities for teachers to share information and knowledge with their peers.

Teachers conduct basic biomedical research in a laboratory under the supervision of a Scripps Research scientist in one of the research departments. The program emphasizes the scientific process, research planning, bench experience, experimental design, data analysis and interaction with laboratory personnel. As an adjunct to their day-to-day responsibilities, participants will be required to attend specially-designed programs and field trips throughout the course of the summer. In addition to the intensive, hands-on eight-week summer program, teachers are expected to use the laboratory experience as a springboard to create opportunities in discovery-based learning for their students, effect change in their classrooms and serve as a resource for other educators. They must demonstrate their willingness to pursue year-round follow-up activities based on the summer experience.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Articles, Lessons, Resources

 

Why is STEM Important?

                                             

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) skills are increasingly necessary to engage in a knowledge-based economy and in daily decision-making. There is solid evidence to suggest that the fastest-growing and highest-wage jobs in future years will be in STEM fields. Workers in these fields must use STEM skills for problem solving in a wide range of industries. However, as the need for solid STEM skills is growing, the achievement gap is also growing. California lags other states in math and science proficiency ratings, and the nation as a whole falls behind many of its international peers.  A STEM based education needs to begin at the elementary level and continue throughout the high school years.  The following contains starting statics about science, technology, engineering and math in the California and the United States!

  • In OECD’s PISA 2009 rankings of international secondary education performance, the United States ranked 32nd (slightly below the international average) in Mathematics and 23rd (at about the international average) in Science. (Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development)
  • A World Economic Forum Executive Opinion Survey in 2008 and 2009 ranked the quality of Math and Science education in the United States in 48th place. (World Economic Forum)
  • In 2008, STEM-related degrees and completions accounted for 12% of all higher education degrees and completions. (California Postsecondary Education Commission)
  • The United States has fallen from first to eleventh place in the OECD in the fraction 25-34 year olds that has graduated high school. The older portion of the U.S. workforce ranks first among OECD populations of the same age. (OECD, 2009)
  • According to the ACT College Readiness report, 78 percent of high school graduates did not meet the readiness benchmark levels for one or more entry-level college courses in mathematics, science, reading and English. (American College Testing – ACT)
  • Sixty-nine percent of United States public school students in fifth through eighth grade are taught mathematics by a teacher without a degree or certificate in mathematics. (National Center for Educational Statistics)
  • Ninety-three percent of United States public school students in fifth through eighth grade are taught the physical sciences by a teacher without a degree or certificate in the physical sciences. (National Center for Educational Statistics)
  • 75% of the 50 fastest growing occupations in California require STEM skills with 70% of these jobs paying more than the state’s median wage of $18.12/hour. (Labor Market Information Division, Employment Development Department)
  • California ranked 43rd or lower across all states in mathematics and science proficiency in grades 4 and 8 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005).

http://www.cslnet.org/stem-challenge.php

 

 
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Posted by on March 17, 2012 in Articles, Resources

 

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