Sunday, December 23, 2012


At the completion of the first semester at Streamwood High School in Streamwood, Illinois I initiated a summative engineering-based challenge for my physical science students to accomplish.  Upon reflecting on NGSS and its renewed emphasis on engineering-based modeling in the science curriculum, I recommitted myself to utilizing the AWIM electric car challenge as a means to meet these new learning outcomes.  Using STEM research models and publications, I modified the electric car challenge into a comparative analysis of prototype models of the SAE electric car and student- designed models.  I wanted to provide students with the challenge of engineering-based problem solving, but with controls on variables and with a goal of achieving collaborative assessment of data.

I am thankful for the resources that AWIM provides, with respect to the classroom kits of electric cars and the ease in which to modify curriculum to meet students’ learning needs.  I was able employ the electric car project in three high school physical science classes with a combined enrollment of nearly 90 students. 

AWIM Website:

STEM research models can be tailored to the classroom environment and to the culture of learning in the school.  The future of engineering-modeled curriculum initiatives will rely upon educators of science at the K-6 and middle school levels to design learning models that stress problem solving attributes that need to be learned by students at all age levels.  If we want to keep pace with changes taking place in science education that are sweeping the globe, then we had better commit ourselves, as educators, to break the current curriculum mold and try new approaches to learning science.  These new learning environments will develop student creativity, critical thinking and ultimately create a sense that collaboratively students have the ability to solve real complex problems. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Changing Face of Education in the 21st Century

The Changing Face of Education in the 21st Century

Here is a quote from Jay McTighe education author and consultant written in part 4 of a 5 part series on Common Core Big Ideas and published recently in Edutopia:

“To design a 12-K curriculum backward from the goal of autonomous transfer requires a deliberate and transparent plan for helping the student rely less and less on teacher hand-holding and scaffolds. After all, transfer is about independent performance in context. You can only be said to have fully understood and applied your learning if you can do it without someone telling you what to do. In the real world, no teacher is there to direct and remind you about which lesson to plug in here or what strategy fits there; transfer is about intelligently and effectively drawing from your repertoire, independently, to handle new situations on your own. Accordingly, we should see an increase, by design, in problem- and project-based learning, small-group inquiries, Socratic Seminars, and independent studies as learners’ progress through the curriculum across the grades.

Our point here is straightforward: if a curriculum simply marches through lists of content knowledge and skills without attending to the concomitant goal of cultivating independent performance, high-schoolers will remain as dependent on teacher directions and step-by-step guidance as fourth graders currently are. The resulting graduates will be unprepared for the demands of college and the workplace.”

As educators we need to put more effort into reshaping our educational institutions so that they reflect a culture of learning helping to bring forth, in every student, understanding that is necessary to be productive and accountable citizens of our 21st century democracy.