Thursday, June 28, 2012

STEM, Gifted Children and the Clinton Global Initiative

This post was originally published on June 12, 2012 at ArduinoMom. For my archived thoughts on gifted education, see the Gifted Kids tab above.

Last week I was a fly on the wall during a STEM working group session at CGI America. You can read about my experience here. In general, the conversation was stimulating, with much discussion geared toward STEM for all, or more generally, opportunity for all. That was all fine and good, but the more I reflect on my day at CGI America, the more disturbed I am about the lack of discussion about gifted and talented students.

Opportunity for all is code for helping disadvantaged children from low socioeconomic backgrounds graduate from high school and find jobs or go to college. It doesn't mean helping white, middle class kids (boys!) like mine and challenging them to develop strong study skills and sound work habits that will lead to success in higher academics and in life. (Not that I'm against the former; please don't think I am.)

One of my commenters hit the nail on the head when s/he wrote: So many parents of high ability kids hear "STEM" and think their prayers have been answered. The sad thing thing is that blended learning and STEM do provide great opportunities for self-paced or independent learning and deeply diving into subjects of interest- but will our schools embrace these opportunities for high ability students or simply continue to use them to provide assistance to other students? I hate that I even have to ask the question.

My boys' school uses a science curriculum that would leave many of the folks in that STEM discussion drooling with envy--it's inquiry-based and it allows for active discovery, yet it's not challenging or academically rigorous. Supposedly the curriculum has the ability to flex to meet the needs of various learners, but I don't think it served my older boy well and I've heard a similar reaction from other parents of high-ability kids.


The STEM working group was sizable and there were many discussions going on simultaneously, so maybe somewhere, someone in the room talked as much about raising the ceiling as everyone else did about raising the floor. I can only hope.

******

On a related note, there's an important national education vote coming up tomorrow. There are many important items on the chopping block. Not gifted ed, though.

Why not?

The budget can't go any lower than it's current level of $0.
 

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Are Google Doodles Sexist?

I don't always catch the latest Google Doodles, those cute images and fun animations that celebrate artists, inventors and scientists, but when I do I enjoy learning a bit about the person behind them. I'd never realized how under-represented women are in the Doodles until I read a piece about it at STEMinist early today.

Does Google know that women make up only 9-12% of the Doodles –  0% in the United States thus far in 2012? Is that figure acceptable at Google?

Read more of what Ann Martin, PhD has to say in her Second Open Letter to Google Doodles.


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

High School Girls and Computer Science

We all dabbled in BASIC back in the day. Remember how fun it was to make your name flash as it scrolled across the screen? (I know, you have to be of a certain age to have such a memory.) I took a full on programming course in high school. I recall going into the class brimming with enthusiasm and ready to build my skills. But I hated it. I think it had to do with the teacher as opposed to the math involved or the breakdown of sexes within the class.

Which is not to say the teacher was sexist. He was just a jerk, though he might have been a sexist jerk. It was a long time ago. All I remember now is that I left the class never wanting to program again.

Until very recently.

Though boys still tend to enroll in advanced computer programming classes at a higher rate than girls, the girls in CS program at Stuyvesant High School are lucky to have what sounds like a wonderful and supportive teacher. Check out what the girls have to say about computer science class. Its a slide show, so click around. I liked what #8 had to say.


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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Monday, June 25, 2012

How to Make Glow Bubbles Even Better (Hint: Dry Ice!)

How to glow bubbles and dry ice explosions
Walt Disney encouraged his employees to take a good idea and "plus it" to make it even better. We needed to "plus" our glow bubbles.

You see, the other night we found a basic glow bubbles recipe on Pinterest. We activated a glow stick, cracked it open, and poured the contents into a clear container filled with bubble solution. Although it produced an eerie glow, the project left us feeling meh.

An idea immediately came to mind: frozen CO2, AKA dry ice.

Dry ice always makes for a good time (but only if you handle with care; otherwise you'll get burned and that's no fun). It sublimates, that is, dry ice melts from a solid directly into a gas. You've probably seen that smoky effect before.

Dry ice + bubble solution is a lot of fun. It noisily produces a stream of smoky bubbles as you'll see in our video below.

So I figured dry ice + glow bubble solution would be even more fun!

And then, just for kicks, I thought we should take a small canister (i.e. from old skool film or medicine container), fill them with glow bubbles and a small piece of dry ice and immediately slap the lid on.

As the dry ice sublimates, the pressure in the canister builds until the cap pops off and glowy bubbles fizz or spray out.

Okay, so it took a little bit of experimenting and a new container to get it to work, and the smoky CO2 bubbles didn't seem to capture the glow, but we did a bit of creative thinking and had a lot of fun. Check out our video recap.




With glow sticks at close to a $1 each (my boys went through an entire $10 "value pack" of 12 in one night) and dry ice at only $1 a pound, you'll get a lot more bang for your buck (literally!) with the dry ice.

Call around to local ice cream shops to see if they sell dry ice. Note- the $1 per pound average may be thrown off when you add in the cost of a cone or two oh a hot summer day, but I still recommend the dry ice over glow sticks if you have to pick just one.

Turn the Summer Slide into the Summer Soar; tell me about your backyard science fun!



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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lytro Light Field Camera

This post was originally published on ArduinoMom.com, which was the original name and url of The Maker Mom. After this post was published the Lytro folks reached out to me with t-shirts, stickers, buttons and...a new lens cap! Delightful surprises, all. Now it's just a matter of waiting for the Lytro's PC software to be released.


My tech-forward teen wanted to buy a Lytro light field camera. I'd heard about the Lytro on NPR and agreed it sounded pretty cool--you can focus your photos after they're taken. But the teen, like many of his peers, doesn't always make the best decisions. I blame the lack of frontal lobe development.

I thought the camera was a bit pricey for him.

Also, the first iteration of a breakthrough product is the most expensive, but not necessarily the best.

And most importantly, to download and manipulate the Lytro's Living Pictures, you need a Mac and our family is all PC.

But the Lytro folks are working on the PC software and say it's just matter of months before it's available.

So my son, flush with cash from his this year's 8th grade graduation and last year's bar mitzvah, purchased a Lytro.

It's unlike any camera I've ever seen, both in look, user interface and function. My son had fun exploring it its functions. As is his way, within a few minutes, he seemed to figure out how to use it as well as how to manipulate the various bells and whistles.

We have an understanding in our house that I've drilled into my boys since their pre-school days: any special item that is taken out of the house (to school, camp, the playground, etc.) is done so with the understanding that the special item might get lost, damaged or stolen.

So when the camera was just a week old and my son took it to the Farmer's Market and returned home without its lens cap, I tried to bite my tongue. I figured he was paying the price for his carelessness. That is, until I went online to order a replacement and realized that Lytro lens cap loss is a very common problem.

You see, the lens cover is attached the the camera's body magnetically. It makes for a sleek, aesthetically pleasing design, but also one that doesn't hold up well.

Thanks to the Lytro user community, his camera currently looks like this when it's not in use.

lytro camera with plastic wrap lens cover


I'll be back with an update on the camera functions once the PC software is available or we convince one of our Mac friends to let my boy download the software and take over their computer for a few hours.

For now, click over to Lytro.com and play around with the light field technology. It's pretty cool!

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Our First Maker Project: The Water Blob

We made a water blob using simple materials found around our home: duct tape, plastic sheeting, which we later swapped out for a heavy duty trash bag (bonus: it's already factory sealed one three sides), and water.



It's true what they say about kids and summer fun: just add water for a guaranteed good time.

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Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Before There was The Maker Mom

Before there was The Maker Mom, there was ArduinoMom.com. Alas, Arduino is still a bit obscure and it didn't take me long to realize that A) I lacked the patience to explain it over and over, B) I wanted to expand beyond Arduino to other topics of interest, like parenting gifted children, STEM education, and STEM for Girls.

I also realized it's time to breathe new life into my old series, When Geeks Grow Up.

Stay tuned for a fun ride!

Kim MoldofskyKim Moldofsky
Kim is a blogger, vlogger, baker, and maker, as well as a trend spotter and founder of #STEMchat. She is passionate about raising STEM-loving kids. to your Google+ circles.

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