• IMG_6861 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6869 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6847 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6803-2 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6812 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6813 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6814 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6829 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6845 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6856 by Shan Gordon.

Amazing STEM Laboratory!

Last night my 10 year old son ran a DNA test to identify a jewel thief, investigated enzymes in milk, and identified sickle cell anemia using electrophoresis. Students from all over Maryland are able to do these and other experiments thanks to the Towson University’s Center for STEM Excellence. The Center loans out kits to do these experiments to schools throughout Maryland for free. They even pay the FEX EX shipping and return for the kits.

If schools can bring students to the SciTech Student Lab, TU-trained staff can lead students through a lab chosen by their teacher. There is a $10 dollar fee per student for the SciTech lab experience.

This is an amazing resource for Middle and High School students and their teachers.
The website is http://www.towson.edu/cse/

IMG_6847 by Shan Gordon.
Your students could be doing this. Zen Gordon, 10, uses the Towson University SciTech Student Lab to learn about DNA, enzymes and Sickle Cell Anemia. Steven Fenchel, a teacher from the Einstein Science School in Kensington, MD offers support. Fenchel came to the lab to be trained so he can check out labs for his students.
[/caption]
IMG_6813 by Shan Gordon.
Christina Romano, Education and Outreach Specialist, demonstrates how to insert samples for testing.
IMG_6803-2 by Shan Gordon.
Students mix and create their own testing media with powder from seaweed and distilled water. The porous structure of the seaweed enables the DNA to migrate through the media for testing.
IMG_6829 by Shan Gordon.
Christina Romano, education and outreach specialist, demonstrates how to conduct the experiment.
IMG_6869 by Shan Gordon.
A visit with the Diamond Backed Terrapins outside the lab is a great way to end the experience.
  • IMG_5278-2 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5276-1080 by .
  • IMG_5165web by .
  • IMG_5221 1080 latanya carter by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5204crop1090web by .
  • IMG_5165web-8 by .
  • IMG_5165web-8 by .
  • IMG_5165web7in by .
  • IMG_5276 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5165webby4 by .
  • IMG_5168webbie by .
  • IMG_5174webbie4 by .
  • IMG_5204crop800-web by .
  • IMG_5204cropweb by .
  • IMG_5350web1100 by .
  • IMG_5218web-1100 by .
  • IMG_5174w1090 by .
  • IMG_5204crop1090web by .
  • IMG_5174-web6inch by .
  • IMG_5165web-8 by .
  • IMG_5165 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5165web-1080 by .
  • IMG_5165-web-1100 by .
  • IMG_5235-2 by .
  • IMG_5218-healthsafety-1080 by .
  • IMG_5221 1080 latanya carter by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5358web1080 by .
  • IMG_5358web1080 by .

Health Lessons for Schools: How students can improve the health and learning conditions at their schools.

What would happen if students examined their school, homes and habits in the same way that doctors examined a patient?
Could they start to identify and change things in their school and home environments that hinder their health and learning?
Could they identify and change their own choices to improve their health and learning?
Could examining their school with health, building and energy professionals help them see potential career paths?

Yes.

We got a glimpse of how this could work last month when sixty students from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute examined the health and learning conditions in their school and its energy use over four class sessions. Students also learned about the 21st century school building project and architecture in another class session.

Benchmarking schools for health and learning conditions and calculating ROI for energy projects.

IMG_5174w1090 by .
A student takes temperature and humidity readings near a heating unit in his classroom. These readings were not part of the benchmarking protocol, but this innovation proved that the unit was working.
IMG_5165-web-1100 by .
Keith Madigan, a building engineer, shows students how to examine and compare energy data and how to use return on investment calculations to identify potential energy savings.

Students learned how to use tools and collect data to benchmark classrooms for lighting, natural light, temperature, humidity and Co2 levels from Keith Madigan, of Madigan and Associates. Madigan helped students understand how to benchmark their school using Operations Report Card by the Collaborative for High Performing Schools and Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

How to Understand and Reduce the Health Effects of Asthma and Lead.

IMG_5204crop1090web by .
Erin Quinn talks with students about asthma related ER visits in Baltimore. Baltimore has asthma rates near double the state average with the highest rates of asthma related ER visits in a band of low income neighborhoods

Rebecca Rehr from the Maryland Environmental Health Network talked with students about asthma and asthma triggers. Students learned about programs that provide renovations and trainings to reduce asthma triggers at homes and how green cleaning can reduce asthma attacks. Rehr, a graduate of Poly, talked about how a health presentation at Poly during her junior year sparked her interest in health professions. She told students that when she attended Poly, the water fountains were turned off because of concern about lead in the water, but students weren’t involved in learning around this issue.

After presenting the asthma statistics from the classes, a student noted that he was absent from school the week when the students filled out the forms—due to asthma. It was a good lesson about our need to collect data carefully and fully. The survey results are here Poly charts and data asthma and at the end of this article.

*Survey results from the classes are included at the end of this report. School-wide asthma statistics hadn’t been supplied to Baltimore City Health Department by the health official at the school. Baltimore City Public Schools  failed to submit plans for green cleaning as required by Maryland state law.

Learning to Improve the Health and Learning Conditions at Your School (and Home) Environments

IMG_5235-2 by .
Don Brock from Health and Safety at City Schools
shows students how he investigates and solves health problems in school.
IMG_5221 1080 latanya carter by Shan Gordon.
Latanya Carter tells students how they can use integrated pest management to reduce pests at the school without using chemicals that are harmful to students.
IMG_5218web-1100 by .
Robert Griffin from Health and Safety at Baltimore City Public Schools teaches students how to test the Co2 levels in classrooms. The ventilation system wasn’t operating in one of the rooms tested, minimal air flow in another. Opening windows can provide fresh air if the ventilation system is not functioning properly and help students get the fresh air they need to concentrate on their work.
IMG_5276-1080 by .
Can you trace the travel path of the mouse?
The oils and grease on the mouse stick to the things they rub against and collect dark particles. The conduit provides a handy path to travel. Mice and cockroaches can be asthma triggers. Sealing entryways to the school and keeping food stored properly can reduce pests and improve indoor air quality.

Creating Community Support for Schools, Creating Schools that Support Communities.

IMG_5358web1080 by .
Frank Patinella of the ACLU talks with students about the
21st Century School Building project and how it supports their rights to equal education. Richard Gwynallen of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council discussed how the council is working to grow community through the 21st Century Building project.

Understanding Architecture Inside and Out: The Systems and Heart of our Built Environments.

IMG_5350web1100 by .
Beverly Eisenberg talks with students about how architecture can protect, serve and inspire. Her lecture demonstrated the many interacting levels and systems involved in creating healthy and productive built environments.

Findings and items of interest:

• When we examined the energy and water use data for the Poly/Western campus (the schools share utilities and physical plant) we discovered that water use for Poly/Western in FY 2014 was $517,000 dollars–far higher than other high schools. The next highest water bill was $85,000 dollars. A look at historic data indicated that Poly/Western has had very high water use for several years. Energy and facilities staff has not yet indicated whether this water use has been reduced or whether there is an explanation on why it would be so high in comparison to other schools. Graphs showing the water use comparisons are found
here (Poly Water Use Charts) and at the end of this report.

• We found that the lecture room where we held most of the classes had no air flow through the ventilation/heating vents. When Co2 levels were tested in a nearby classroom, they were high despite the fact that the class had only been filled for a short time.

• Teachers and students didn’t seem to understand how to eliminate asthma triggers or that air vents and air handlers shouldn’t be blocked with classroom materials.

• The energy manager for the district insisted that boilers at the schools could not be switched from oil to gas. A staff member at the school insists that BGE certified that the boilers were dual fuel and able to use natural gas, a far cheaper fuel source at this time.

• There are a number of holes and penetrations in the building envelope ranging from ill fit window air conditioning units to unfitted ducting to doors that fail to close fully.

• Evidence of mold and water leaks in hallways and classrooms and peeling paint on the exterior.

• City Schools have not adopted green cleaning policies, procedures and purchasing despite Maryland state law.

• City Schools continues to have divided systems of reporting for information on asthma and lacks comprehensive reporting of asthma related absences.

• The square footage of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Western High School are listed differently from document to document.

Opportunities for learning activities at Poly/Western.

• Calculate the ROI of fuel change from oil to gas.

• Calculate the ROI of lighting change to LED

• Continued monitoring of temperature/humidity/air flow.

• Determine why lecture room has no air flow.

• Investigate why water use at Poly/Western is high.

• Help improve the collection and dissemination of asthma information.

• Offer eye chart exam for students to determine if they need correction to improve their ability to see and learn.

• Investigate the of costs and opportunities to provide internet/computer access to students at their homes.

• Monitor/identify and reduce pests at school with integrated pest management techniques.

• Enter energy use data into Energy Star Portfolio Manager.

• Calculate square footage for Poly and Poly/Western.

• Test for CO and mold.

• Test for lead in paint and in water supply.

• Monitor how chemicals and hazardous materials are used/stored at the school.

Students have an opportunity to use their learning to improve their health, learning and professional preparation.
Their work can provide schools with the knowledge and opportunities to lower their energy and maintenance costs while improving school attendance rates.
This is perfect STEM learning that combines health, learning, architecture, chemistry, biology, economics and social science in a hands on experiment to
create better outcomes for our students and our schools.

This work can help students meet the Core Curriculum and Next Generation Science Standards as they perform tests and create innovative engineering solutions in their immediate environment. School benchmarking can provide school facilities staff with ongoing information on the operations and maintenance of schools so they can better understand and respond to these issues before they become costly.

This learning project offers us a way to refocus and reconnect our schools to the health, learning and success of our students.
Today is the best day to start.

Graphs and data from student survey on asthma

Poly charts and data asthma

Graphs and data showing water use of Baltimore Polytechnic and Western compared to other City Schools.

Poly Water Use Charts

  • IMG_5861 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5867 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5903 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5922 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5950 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5952 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_5972 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6037 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6046 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6048 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6053 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6086 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_6020 by .
  • IMG_5855 by Shan Gordon.

Rethinking Learning: What lessons can after school programs teach our schools?

posted in: Blog, Multimedia, STEM, STEM learning | 0

During the recent Maryland Out of School Time conference I got a chance to observe lessons from a variety of after school programs. These programs involved the participants in genuine STEM inquiry in ways that are still rare in the schools that I visit.
Exercise and nutritional education that are missing from many schools are alive and well in a variety of after school programs. These programs are helping to keep our children moving, strong, focused and healthy. Remember when all our schools thought that was an important part of their day?
The programs I saw lead with the fun of learning and doing, but involve participants in mastering important concepts, knowledge and skills. Apparently, learning doesn’t have to be boring or disconnected from the world to be successful.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to cross-train formal and informal teachers?

IMG_6053 by Shan Gordon.

Can you solve a crime? Conference participants learn how to take and identify fingerprints in a demonstration on forensic science given by the University of Maryland.

IMG_6046 by Shan Gordon.

Examining a fingerprint in play dough for loops, arch, and worl.

IMG_5861 by Shan Gordon.

What are the properties of Newtonian and Non-Newtonian materials? In the Click 2 Science demonstration, participants were given a variety of materials to mix, stretch, bend, build, squish and take home to continue their exploration of how these materials could be used. Blowing a bubble was an innovation.

IMG_6037 by Shan Gordon.

An LED diode and a battery could provide a quick lesson in light, electricity and color at the Maker Lab.

IMG_6086 by Shan Gordon.

So what happens when you put a lighted LED set in motion with a small motor in the Maker Lab demonstration? Smiles and “a ha’s”

IMG_5903 by Shan Gordon.

Space birds from You Fly Now can teach aerodynamics, building skills, physics, and as shown here, decorating and self awareness skills.
Susan Demorra shows off “Sara Bella” a spacebird she decorated to demonstrate her artistic skills, style and her confident attitude. It doesn’t fly, but it doesn’t need to.

IMG_6020 by .

How many Newton’s does it take to pull a weight up an incline? It’s not a nerd joke, it’s an exercise in physics and architecture from the Salvadori Center.

  • cowlearning by .

Whole(y) Cow!

cow-learning-chart by . After years of divide and fail, can we reunite learning with STEM and project based learning?

Study a package of hamburger as long as you like, you will never understand a cow.

So why do we keep dividing learning into bite sized bits, cut out of context, meaning and purpose?
Can memorizing artificial labels on a lifeless, two dimensional chart help us understand or improve the cow?
Or does this simply enable us to divide and label our students in the same way we divided and labeled the cow?

Imagine instead that we challenged students to create a better cow. This forces them to understand “cow” and “better” in all dimensions.
What environments and foods strengthen cows? How do we balance our needs and responsibilities to cows? What diets and choices can keep us healthy?

STEM and project based learning reconstitutes learning, naturally combining and testing our understanding of all subjects.
This learning is rich and alive. It challenges students to understand interacting systems as they search for solutions.
This is how we have always produced stronger cows and more milk.
It can also produce innovative students ready to solve problems in their world.

If you are brave enough to admit that you don’t have every answer; that there can be more than one solution, embark at once upon this learning adventure with your students.
You will be amazed at how some of them will spark alive when they are offered a chance to touch and transform their world.

  • IMG_4821 by .
  • IMG_4826 by .
  • IMG_4841 by .
  • IMG_4855 by .
  • IMG_4866 by .
  • IMG_4887 by .

The High School Innovation Challenge, Warnock Foundation.

posted in: Blog, Multimedia, News and Issues | 0
IMG_4887 by .
Students from Green Street Academy pose with David
Warnock, the sponsor of the High School Innovation
Challenge.

IMG_4866 by .

IMG_4841 by .

IMG_4826 by .

The next time you are at a stadium filled with cheering fans,  imagine if our  teams ran onto the field  not to knock down their opponents, but to lift up their community.  
What if they came to tackle social problems, not quarterbacks?  

Would we cheer and wave in unison if our team helped our homeless get  to home base or renovated a rec center so more children could play?

Would we wear shirts emblazoned with the names of social entrepreneurs, inventors and volunteers?  Would call-in shows be jammed with fans celebrating an unbroken record of social reforms?

You can keep your season tickets to our big sporting events.

But if you want to see some real hero’s compete on behalf of your city, you might want to order your tickets to the next High School Innovation Challenge.

As with most things that are new, the first year of this event was small.   A few supporters gathered around small teams who had come to offer ideas and work to help others.

No cheerleaders, no screaming fans, no recruiters, no million dollar contracts.  Just high school students eager to make their city better.

The Warnock foundation offered prizes to help make these dreams come true.  But more importantly, they honored the voice and ideas of these students who are eager to create a better future for

Baltimore.

That’s worth cheering.

  • IMG_2563 by .
  • IMG_5566-2-2 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_4577 by .
  • IMG_9384 by Shan Gordon.
  • IMG_9384 by Shan Gordon.

Reviving the Baltimore Inner Harbor?

posted in: Multimedia | 0

IMG_4577 by .

Fuels from algae?

A scientist points to a future in bio fuels at the Baltimore Inner Harbor. The pilot project is testing to see if algae could be used as a fuel.

IMG_9384 by Shan Gordon.

Crab baked

A dead crab lays baking in the sun after an algae bloom depleted oxygen in the Baltimore Inner Harbor killing fish and crabs and creating a gagging stench that  drove tourists from Inner Harbor businesses and attractions.

IMG_2563 by .

Seeds of Hope?

A staff member with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation points to a Spat, or baby oyster growing on a shell which will be grown in the
Inner Harbor. Oysters act as filters and if the oysters can survive in the challenging conditions of the Inner Harbor, they could help clean the water.