Welcome to STEM Solutions

We welcome your thoughts and comments to our posts.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The STEM Education Center: Who Are We Teaching?

By Heather Smelser, M.Ed., NBCT
Teacher Consultant for the STEM Education Center

When someone mentions the words mathematician or scientist, what image comes to mind? If you’re like most people you picture an older gentleman wearing a white lab coat and running his fingers though his Einstein-esque hair. The truth however is that today’s mathematicians and scientists are male and female and range in age from 1-100.

In order to meet the diverse educational needs of this wide range of mathematicians and scientists, educators need to be able to have immediate access to an array of material on a correct and specific learning level. As it stands at this time, teachers must wade through a mire of websites that purport to have scientific material on various topics. Those sites may have the topics covered but the readability and comprehension levels of this material may well be geared only to those Einsteins mentioned above. What is a teacher to do?

A typical search from any of a number of popular search engines will garner a multitude of responses to a broad science topic such as ‘plants’. In order to find the most pertinent information on a level that a young student can read, the teacher will need to spend an inordinate amount of time sifting through each hit and following links and wasting precious time. Unfortunately teachers don’t have that kind of time to spend on a wild goose chase without something productive to show for their endeavor.

The work of the STEM Education Center is making it possible for teachers to avoid this problem with the GLS, or Grade Level Stratification. This is where the team sorted the educational content in the science and math standards to bring about the determination of the Learning Level of a particular standard. This is exactly the piece of the puzzle that has been missing for educators across the country. This piece will allow teachers to go to one website, www.scienceeducation.gov and access the desired topics they must teach and in that topic they will also find information for that topic at the most appropriate Learning Level for their students.

This will go a long way to further science and math education by giving teachers the tools they need to tailor instruction directly to the students in their classes in a timely and efficient manor.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The STEM Education Center: The Teacher Team

By Bernadette Monahan MA
Co-Director of the STEM Education Center

The STEM Education Center is now in its fourth year of operation under the direction of Dr. David Wojick. As part of the Center, the teacher team is the window into the educational system in our country. Our team consists of a National Board Certified Teacher (Heather Smelser), an Instructional Technology Resource Teacher (Jennifer Arey Paschke), and individuals who have attended content review boards for the state of Virginia’s standards in math and history (Bernadette Monahan and Cristin Livingston). Each member has a masters in Education and Instructional Technology. We are fully accredited, contracted teachers. Combined we have over 40 years of experience in education.

It is not often that classroom teachers have an opportunity to influence changes in the educational system of their state let alone their country. At the STEM Education Center this is our mission, to be a part of some very important changes which are occurring in education today, namely in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education.

For the past four years, we have become experts in reviewing and disseminating various state educational standards. We are experts because it is part of our daily existence as teachers to be able to understand, implement, and assess our own Virginia state standards.

Much of our early work dealt with creating Grade level stratification or GLS, which is our term for sorting educational content, mainly in science, by grade level. See our work titled “Grade Level Stratification”. Using the state standards of three states, we were able to “average” the terms according to the grade levels in which they are taught. The core science concepts should not and cannot be taught without first understanding terms or vocabularies, which are a part of the body of core knowledge. This works extends from Kindergarten through college and is currently used in the science education portal www.scienceeducation.gov . Also see Dr. Wojick’s blog in OSTI (Office of Science and Technology Innovation) which explains this work. http://www.osti.gov/ostiblog/home/entry/cataloging_concepts_by_learning_level

Another important part of our research has been in the confusions found within state standards. See our paper titled “Confusions in State Science Standards: An Introduction.”Standards are what drive education today. Schools and more importantly teachers are held accountable based on the education standards each state must create. In our research, we have found not all standards are created equally. What a student learns in science in California is quite different from what a student in the same grade level will learn in Virginia or Texas. We have created a detailed site with links to every states’ standards. More importantly this research into state standards has helped us become experts in reviewing and comparing state standards; a luxury that many teachers to do not have.

Finally, in this forum we would like to be the window, in which others may view the daily process a teacher, student, and even parents experience in an average classroom. We are excited about sharing our research as well as what we are working on in the future. Please visit us often, share your opinions, and provide us with opportunities to be your experts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Welcome to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Solutions Blog. The STEM Solutions weblog is operated by the STEM Education Center, our motto being “Write it so They Can Read It.” Dr. David Wojick, with his Associates began this weblog as an extension of their efforts at the STEM Education Center, which focus on the identification, writing, and ability to search for STEM material by grade level.

At this weblog you will find ongoing discussions of STEM challenges, Grade Level Stratification (GLS) information, state educational standard issues and current topics. You are invited to participate in the discussions, and we encourage you to also suggest topics for discussion. Your ideas are most certainly welcome.

The STEM Education Center is located in the Northwestern part of the Shenandoah Valley. It is here, that David and his team of experts on the grade level aspects of STEM educational content operate. Dr. Wojick and his Associates found early on in their research that web-based educational content is being developed in vast numbers throughout both the scientific community and the educational world. The problem with that is there is no search engine that finds educational content by grade level or degree of difficulty. This is the problem the team at the STEM Education Center is solving through the development of their new grade level stratification (GLS) system for finding, collecting and stratifying STEM educational content on the Web, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. The STEM Education Center efforts are ever expanding. Find out more about our efforts and discoveries at our STEM Education Center site.

Now just a little about our team:

Dr. Wojick, the Principal Investigator, is an expert on the Web-based diffusion of scientific knowledge and the concept structure of science and technology.

Diane Adams is a Web designer and research expert. Dr. Wojick and Diane Adams have conducted or participated in a number of large-scale projects that required developing new methods of search and analysis, in the context of real world applications. Much of this work has been done for the Federal government.

Bernadette Monahan is a science teacher who specializes in educational technology and collecting science education Web content. She is presently the Co-director and Lead Research Consultant for the Stem Education Center.

Georgia Perry-Ray is the Center’s Regulatory Analyst and Communications Specialist. Georgia has extensive regulatory experience as a retired Program Analyst of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) where she had responsibility for the development and implementation of nationwide policy and procedures.

Kenneth Ray, our IT Specialist, performs the tedious IT support tasks for which we are all thankful.

Additional Associates include the teacher consultant team for the Center, Cristin Livingston, Jennifer Arey Paschke and Heather Bachschmid Smelser whose expertise has been invaluable determining the Grade Level Stratification of state science standards and the analysis of those differences.