TNLI Work for 2010-2011: Education Advocacy

Luke Laurie

TNLI Fellow

Summary of Advocacy Work for 2010-2011 School Year

Einstein Summit and HIV Prevention Education

 

 

STEM Education, The Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit, Summer 2010

 

During the Summer of 2010, I concluded my work from the previous year by taking part in the planning, coordinating, and implementing the 20th Anniversary Summit of the Einstein Fellowship. This year-long project  was implemented by a volunteer committee of former Einstein Fellows, and culminated in a Summit that occurred over 3 days in Washington, D.C. in June of 2010. The highlights of the Summit included: approximately 100 attendees; several whole group sessions and break out sessions on timely STEM education topics; a Congressional Reception; guests from several Federal agencies, the White House, and the Legislative Branch; participation by a few current and former Members of Congress; a Published report of proceedings of the Summit, and a list of ten policy recommendations.

 

My personal work on the Summit included working on the Planning Committee, Chairing the Program/Agenda subcommittee that developed the topics for the sessions and drafted the program, facilitating the plenary session on STEM education and the Reauthorization of ESEA, and sitting on the panels of the opening plenary session, STEM Education Policy Panel Discussion. I also was the Facilitator of the Einstein Summit Policy Team, which put together the policy recommendations culled from all of the sessions of the Summit, composed a one-page summary, and distributed the recommendations to dozens of lawmakers in the House and Senate. Digitally, these recommendations were distributed to all Capitol Hill staff.

 

500 copies of the printed report: “From the Classroom to Washington: Einsteins on Education Reform” were printed and distributed by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and the Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education.

 

More information on the Summit can be found at the following URL:

http://sites.google.com/site/einstein20summit/

 

The Report from the Summit can be found here:

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/sites/default/files/E20%20Summit%20Report.pdf

 

The Policy Recommendations can be found here:

https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/policy-recommendations-on-the-20th-anniversary-of-the-einstein-fellowship/

 

Policy Recommendations on the 20th Anniversary of the Einstein Fellowship

 

The Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellows, some of the nation’s leading educators, gathered in Washington, DC on June 28-29, 2010, for a 20th Anniversary Summit.  Hosted by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Summit brought together more than 80 current and former Einstein Fellows along with distinguished guest speakers from the White House, Federal agencies, national education organizations, and the U.S. Congress.  The goal of the Summit was to generate recommendations to inform and improve science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education. The Summit covered a variety of educational issues, including national curriculum standards, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, and educational equity.

 

Recommendations of the Einstein Fellows:

Support initiatives to enable school systems to implement innovative teaching practices in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Increase funding for Pre-K-12 education, especially programs that impact each child as opposed to competitive grants.  Federal funding is vital to the maintenance and development of STEM programs in states and districts.

Establish national standards for science education and support provisions in the reauthorization of ESEA that give equal treatment to science as to mathematics and language arts. Science knowledge and skills, as part of a comprehensive STEM approach, are vital for all students and provide 21st Century workforce skills, promote national security and global competitiveness.

Include K-12 teachers, such as Einstein Fellows, in the formulation of professional development or curriculum.  The real world experience of classroom teachers is an overlooked asset when new programs are developed.

Base school and student assessment on multiple measures and formative assessments.

Create and fund a program to place science specialists to teach and coach in elementary schools.  Elementary schools can benefit from the presence of competent STEM teachers who also have skills in working with K-12 students.  They can teach STEM and also model effective strategies as instructional coaches.

Support legislation that encourages research-based instruction and teacher training.

Support federal programs to purchase science equipment and provide STEM training to teachers at the K-6 grade levels.  This will enable the delivery of inquiry-based, hands-on science experiences.

Establish guidelines to ensure all administrators are competent and knowledgeable in STEM education.  Student success and instructional quality depends on strong school leadership.

Support initiatives and funding to enable states and districts to lengthen the school day or school year.

HIV Prevention Education in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District

 

During the 2010-2011 school year, I spent considerable time pursuing local advocacy by continuing my work to improve HIV prevention education for junior high students in my school district. I had been working on this issue for four years through ongoing communication with other teachers, schools, and administrators. My district had not adopted or purchased new materials nor updated curriculum since before California updated its laws and guidelines governing the mandatory HIV prevention education in 2004.  Several discussions and meetings with Science Department chairs and life science teachers in the 2009-2010 school year had revealed that HIV prevention related health content was being taught with outdated materials, or in some cases not taught at all. Through my work and at my request the district began to hold meetings specifically to deal with this issue, during the 2010-2011 school year, to investigate the nature of what we were and were not teaching, to better understand the State’s requirements in this area, to discuss the sensitive nature of the subject matter, and to explore curriculum resources to help us meet our requirements and duty to our students.

 

My work included researching legal statutes, consulting State guidelines, talking with staff at the State Department of Education, reading health and sex education research, attending several meetings with administration and science teachers, building an extensive digital collection of resources for teachers, and making a presentation to the school board.

 

The results of this work allowed our district to create new policies to be in compliance with State law, and to begin the adoption process by piloting the Red Cross Positive Prevention Curriculum. I can happily report that I faced little resistance from the administration and the school board, though numerous discussions with teachers turned to debates over the nitty-gritty aspects of what and how to teach the sex-related content.

 

Below, I have included my comments to my school board upon the first introduction of the curriculum, prior to piloting. The remarks and our presentation of the curriculum was met with unanimous support and positive remarks from the entire board.

 

The curriculum materials were piloted and approved by the science teachers, and will now, during the 2011-2012 school year, go through the process of being cleared by various committees and going back to the school board for a final vote. I will participate in some of the presentations of the materials.

 

Link to the training workshop slideshow:

http://homepage.mac.com/mrlaurie/misc/hivinstruction.pdf

 

Link to the Positive Prevention Red Cross Curriculum:

http://www.positiveprevention.com/

 

Comments to the school Board on HIV Prevention Curriculum Pilot

 

I thank the board for allowing me to speak this evening,

 

In the field of education, we’re always operating within an economy of scarcity. Far from an ideal system for serving the needs of our students, we do not have not enough money, nor enough time, and we have too many students with tremendous needs; academic, social, behavioral, emotional and physical.

 

In the standards-based educational push of the last decade, we were caught up in fervor to enhance academic learning, specifically, of course, Math and Language Arts. Because resources and time are scarce, schools across the country eliminated programs and courses in the fine arts, health education, physical education, and even science. With this unbalanced approach, we were doing less to educate the whole child.

 

In our district, we haven’t done enough in recent years to provide our students with the health information and skills they need to make good choices about their sexual health.

 

The HIV Prevention Education requirement in State law is there to address issues that are vital to our youth. A large fraction of our students are sexually active, and many lack the knowledge and behavioral skills to protect themselves from disease or unintended pregnancy. Santa Barbara County has a teen pregnancy rate for latinas that is the highest rate in the State at 9%. That’s nearly 1 in 10 of our latina population, and three times the average rate for all California teens.

 

We all know that the challenges for teens who become parents are numerous. And challenging too, are the lives of our students who are being raised by young people who became parents too early themselves. We all bear the costs. And while the Red Cross curriculum is not specifically focused in preventing teen pregnancy, the same knowledge and skills they will gain from learning to prevent HIV will also prevent pregnancy and other sexually transmitted diseases.

 

The Red Cross Positive Prevention Curriculum provides a framework that teaches the means of transmission and prevention of HIV, but it also includes lessons on behavior and decision making, as well as identifying and avoiding risky situations, and developing refusal skills. The material in this curriculum is presented in a manner that is useful to teachers, and provides them with tools for handling controversial subjects sensitively.

 

I strongly encourage the board to support this committee’s work and to move forward with the pilot program for the Positive Prevention Curriculum. I also would like to encourage the board to support other improvements in health and sexual health education to provide our students with vital information and skills that will help them live healthy lives.

 

Thank you.

The Robotics Science Class in 5 minutes or less

Blog Post from Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

My Robotics science class was the focus of a five minute presentation I recently did at Microsoft’s Mountain View facility, as a Semifinalist for the STEMposium competition, on March 12, 2011. Below are the slides from the presentation, and the script of my remarks.

My name is Luke Laurie. Today I’m going to tell you about the Robotics Science Class that I’ve been teaching for seven years.

Let me tell you a few things about myself.

Science Teacher 13 years -El Camino Junior High in Santa Maria, CA I teach a student population who are mostly English Language Learners, and almost all live in poverty. My school is not unlike many schools in California.

MESA Advisor 13 years -MESA is a statewide program focused on hands-on activities and college attainment in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science

RoboChallenge Director 10 years -A collaborative regional program funded in part by grants from UCSB, providing robotics materials, competition rules, audio-visual and web-based resources, and teacher support to several schools.

Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow- in the U.S. House of Representatives with Congressman Mike Honda, where I worked for a year on Education and Science Policy

and… I Still play LEGOs

From all of my experience in various STEM programs and STEM education policy, it is clear to me that

STEM must be a part of the core curriculum.

In our schools:

We teach science

And we teach Math

but our students need to know more. We need to ensure that they all have opportunities to explore the concepts of technology and engineering too.

To me, it’s artificial to teach Science without integrating technology, engineering, and mathematics. That’s why I created the Robotics Science Class.

 

Kids need more STEM experiences and they need to begin them at a young age to have meaningful impact on their lives.

To change the face of STEM, we need to remove the barriers that keep STEM out of reach for most of our students.

The best STEM education programs don’t require high costs or major sacrifices, nor steep qualifications to participate. Good STEM education needs to be easy to access.

Unfortunately, too often, STEM programs don’t reach the student populations that need them the most, and target their efforts only at small teams in after school settings, or to select students during summer programs.

We do have a way to reach all students with high quality STEM education. We have our public schools. And in our schools we need to look at what we’re doing, and make STEM an integral part of our curriculum, and we must implement policies to provide schools with the technical resources, and training they need.

By making my class open to all students, during the school day, and part of the core curriculum, I have enabled hundreds of kids from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain STEM skills and experience they might not otherwise have had.

My students learn that there are tremendous career opportunities for people with STEM skills, and STEM skills are becoming increasingly important to all careers.

The Robotics Science Class integrates California 8th grade physical science standards with the design, construction, and programming of autonomous robots for a variety of fun and interesting challenges.

Students are learning all the California State Standards for Science, including conceptual physics, chemistry, and astronomy, while also learning to use computers and robotics materials as creative tools to solve complex problems.

The Robotics Science Class adds technology and engineering to the science curriculum in a manner that is effective and efficient.

The class primarily uses low cost, durable, flexible, and easy to use LEGO Mindstorms robotics materials, but we’ve used other materials too.

Some of our challenges have included Tug O’War, Sumo, Linefollowing, Robotic Soccer, and Robotic Exploration.

Students learn computer programming concepts using an object-based programming environment where they aren’t stuck dealing with syntax errors and arcane symbols, and instead can focus on the logic of their programs and how to use the sensors and motors to control their robots.

Robotics is a great way to bring all of the aspects of STEM together. Kids love robots, and the idea of working on them is highly motivating. I believe that with more classes like my Robotics Science Class, we will vastly improve STEM education in California.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.

If you wish more information on my class or other STEM work I do, please send me an email, or visit my website or blog.

Thank you.

 

The R2 Project Part 2

Blogpost from Luke Laurie’s Teacherblog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

Last time, I talked about how I was building the drivetrain for the remote controlled R2. Click here for Part 1.

It’s really important to me that this robot is mobile, and able to drive on smooth ground or carpet, while also being able to overcome bumps and dips. Being able to turn smoothly is extremely important.

At first, I had a wheel base of two wheels in the rear two legs providing the mobility, and a single immobile wheel that could roll or slide on a turn. The sliding worked acceptably on smooth surfaces, but just couldn’t cut it on the rug.

So, I researched Omniwheels. I found some very cool robots people have built out of LEGOs using omniwheels, and some omniwheels that you can even buy. (I can’t vouch for any of these wheels or the vendor) I love that the internet is full of people’s cool technology projects.

I found a fairly simple Omniwheel design out there somewhere, and attempted several modifications, but in the end, I settled on the design below. This wheel seems pretty effective at allowing R2 to drive forward and backward in a fairly straight line without too many bumps, while also turning pretty smoothly. For now, this is what I’ll use, but I may consider other options.

 

The R2 Project Part 1

Blog Post from Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

My son received an R2-D2 aquarium as a gift a while back, but we never had it set up with fish. After siting around for a while as a decoration, I got the idea of putting some mechanical and electronic components into it and turning it into a robot. After all, I teach a robotics science class, and have a lot of LEGOs and other parts lying around. By doing this work around my students, I could show them a thing or two about design and troubleshooting a robot project like this.

To start, I needed the thing to be able to move, and I decided that it would be most fun if he could be remotely controlled. So I got out some VEX robotics materials that were going unused, and set about designing a driving base to match the R2 shell.

I started with a design that had large enough wheels to be pretty quick, but could still carry significant weight. I used some LEGO wheels for the front, which worked OK, but they had to slide around when R2 turned, and would most likely get stuck on carpet. The rear wheels were also too large to fit inside the R2 feet, so they wouldn’t do.

Deciding that the rear wheels were two big, I switched to smaller wheels that had about 1/2 the circumference. If I attached these directly to the motor in the same way as the larger wheels were connected, my robot would cut its speed in 1/2. That would be too slow for my taste.

So I put a couple of gears on there- a larger one with about 60 teeth attached to the motor, and a smaller one with about 30 teeth attached to the wheel axle. Bingo- the robot speed was right back up to the same speed as with the larger wheels, I just lose a little energy and add a little noise because of the gears.

 

RoboChallenge and the Robotics Science Class

Blog Post from Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

Robotics is a great way to combine many aspects of STEM education under one unifying theme. I’ve been working with students of all ages using LEGO Mindstorms robotics materials since shortly after they came out, in 1999. I’ve developed dozens of competitions, run events, trained teachers, held workshops, and have created dozens of videos and other audiovisual materials to share my work with the public. I find building and programming these robotics to be fun and intellectually stimulating, and by building my own, I’ve become a better teacher. I think this work with robotics benefits students in a multitude of ways, including college preparation, developing comfort with computers and peripherals, introducing programming concepts, using the engineering design process, developing skills for technical trades, applying mathematics and science concepts, working in cooperative situations, problem solving, technical troubleshooting, and spacial reasoning.

My most significant and lasting projects with robotics have been the RoboChallenge Program, and the Robotics Science Class.

RoboChallenge

Website: http://homepage.mac.com/mrlaurie/robo/robochallenge.html

RoboChallenge is a program designed to reach students from under-served communities surrounding The University of California at Santa Barbara, with the highly motivating and richly educational field of robotics. Students in RoboChallenge build LEGO robots for a variety of challenges, such as Sumo, Tug O’ War, and Linefollowing. The program began with grants from the University of California, but has been sustained by the hard work of participating teachers and funds and support from a variety of sources, especially schools and districts in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Guadalupe, and Santa Barbara.

RoboChallenge was created to encourage students in underserved communities in the Santa Barbara area to pursue careers in Math, Science, and Engineering. There are other robotics programs out there, but we felt that we needed to develop a program that was extremely cost efficient, using LEGO Mindstorms materials. The program was modeled after the concept of the LEGO robotics classes offered at UCSB for graduate and undergraduate engineering students.

Programs such as FIRST can provide amazing experiences for those involved, but are cost prohibitive and offer robotics opportunities to only a handful of students at a school site. We wanted schools to be able to build multiple robots, be able to work in groups of three or four students maximum, and enable as many students to be involved as possible. The schools we targeted were schools that lack many of the financial resources available in wealthier communities.

An effective engineering outreach program needs to do more than work with students that are already college bound. Highly ambitious and talented students do need encouragement, but an effective outreach program brings in students who might not have any STEM motivation. In designing RoboChallenge, we emphasized the fun of engineering design and programming and the inclusion of all ages and ability levels across a demographic region traditionally underserved by higher education.

To get as many students involved across a broad geographic region, we developed a model that uses the skills of ambitious teachers, provides them with sufficient low cost LEGO robotics materials, and allows them to involve as many students as they want. Some schools have had as many as 50 students in a year. On average, approximately 200 students have participated annually from 10 schools, building as many as 50 robots.

The Robotics Science Class

Website: http://homepage.mac.com/mrlaurie/roboscience.html

The Robotics Science Class has been offered to students at El Camino Junior High since 2003. In this class, students are taught all California State Standards for 8th Grade Physical Science, in addition to learning to build and program robots. Students have a choice to be in the Robotics Science Class. Sign ups for the course occur in the Spring. The course is more difficult than a traditional 8th grade science course, because students are required to do a considerable amount of reading and note taking outside of class. In addition, robot building and programming may require students work on robots at lunch or after school.

The Robotics Science Class teaches all 8th grade Physical Science Standards, as assessed on the California Standards Tests (CST). These learning objectives are taught through traditional methods; including through textbook reading, lectures, demonstrations, and labs, but also through integration into robotics activities.

 

Media from the Einstein Summit

Blog Post from Luke Laurie’s Teacher Blog: https://lukelaurie.wordpress.com/

I was fortunate enough to have participated in the Einstein Fellowship 20th Anniversary Summit, where I met with friends new and old for the purpose of improving STEM education nationwide. Many photos from this event have been posted on the web. Some links to photos, video, and the Einstein Summit Report are below.

Me and Art: The Big Lebofsky

Making a Point on the STEm education Panel

Me and my kids at the welcome reception.

Mad scientist turned stern moderator.

 

Tons more media:

Picasa Web Album

Picasa- whole group photos

Photos from the Wilson Center

Video of part of the Summit from the Wilson Center

The Einstein Summit Report (.pdf)

 

The MESA Video

I’ve been a MESA advisor at El Camino Junior High as long as I’ve been a teacher; 13 years. Around the year 2000, I put together a video of how cool MESA is, and used it to get kids excited about careers in engineering and other technical fields. We’ve had hundreds of students in our MESA program over the years. Many have gone into technical fields, and many have gone to college, and all have benefited from the diverse experiences we offer them. Below is a link to that video. MESA is a great program, and should be a part of every great school. MESA is run out of the University of California Office of the President.

 

http://homepage.mac.com/mrlaurie/mesa.html

 

For more info on MESA- see the website.