Gov. O’Malley asks students to remind adults to love our world.
Click on the photo to watch the video.
Gov. O’Malley asks students to remind adults to love our world.
Click on the photo to watch the video.
The printing press. Democracy. The internet. Citizen Science.
Each of these educates, connects and empowers people. They are extensions of our hunger to learn, share information and create solutions. Opening science to more people creates a virtuous cycle that strengthens science and empowers citizens. Citizen observations greatly expand the data base for scientific studies. In turn, this expanded knowledge and understanding of science empowers citizens to take an informed role in shaping the choices in their communities and world. Smarter science, smarter citizens, smarter world.
A full room of teachers and informal educators discussed a wide variety of science projects and activities yesterday at the NOAA Environmental Science Training Center in Oxford, Maryland. We saw how citizen science projects are enriching learning, connecting people to their environments, and empowering citizens to protect their health and communities. From students helping to identify species and habitat ranges in Maryland, to volunteers reporting sewage leaks in Baltimore, to people reporting the weather and changing seasons to better understand climate change, science is becoming more participatory and collaborative. Knowledge is power. Citizen science offers a path to strengthen scientific studies while empowering citizens with knowledge of scientific protocols and a deeper understanding of their environments and choices.
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?
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.
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.
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
Creating Community Support for Schools, Creating Schools that Support Communities.
Understanding Architecture Inside and Out: The Systems and Heart of our 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
Graphs and data showing water use of Baltimore Polytechnic and Western compared to other City Schools.
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?
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.
Examining a fingerprint in play dough for loops, arch, and worl.
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.
An LED diode and a battery could provide a quick lesson in light, electricity and color at the Maker Lab.
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”
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.
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.
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
That’s worth cheering.
It’s a place that needs optimism.
The Bronx is a tough neighborhood with high unemployment and the rumble of food insecurity. The New York City Coalition Against Hunger reported in December, 2013 that nearly 49 percent of Bronx children lived in a household with an inconsistent food supply.
Equally alarming, children in the Bronx have little access to fresh food, often eating foods high in sugar and fat, but low in nutritional value.
“We have some of the greatest rates of juvenile diabetes and juvenile obesity in the nation,” Ritz says. “And we can change that. We absolutely have the power to change schools in this generation.”
So where does Ritz get this optimism?
He grows it—with his students.
“The excitement and joy that these little kids feel putting a seed in the ground and watching it blossom—OMG! “ Ritz exclaims. “It’s game changing! It’s empowering!”
“When they know that they can grow their own, they really start changing the way they see their relationship to the world and their place in it,” Ritz says. “They are growing, the plants are growing, and they are responsible for it.”
Vegetables are sprouting in trays, on walls, and from the sides of tower gardens. This growing infuses the classroom—and their lessons. Students learn the science of nutrition and growth. Names of vegetables teach consonant blends. The price of supplies and earnings help students learn math. Growing puts green in their wallets and trains students for jobs and business. With their learning aligned with their lives, students can create, taste and count real reasons to come to school. School attendance grew from 40 percent to 93 percent. Students are heading to college, not jail.
“For so many, food is the problem. Yet for all of us, food is a solution,” Ritz says.
In places adults didn’t think could grow plants, Ritz and his students are growing an answer to poor prenatal nutrition, the cause of 70 percent of learning disabilities. They are growing an answer to dropping out, unemployment and powerlessness with relevant learning, work and constant encouragement. “We are Ameri-CANS!, not Ameri-can’ts, “ Ritz proclaims.
“I’m not a farmer,” Ritz says, “But I’m planting. I’m planting seeds.”
Ritz has planted success in his students with this approach. But there is only one Stephen Ritz. How do we grow crops of transformative teachers and learning projects?
Students can learn STEM by growing and studying in gardens
As teachers and administrators search for ways to improve student performance, they should look in the garden.
Learning in the garden is real, alive and surprising. Here discoveries of “bugs!” and “worms!” are shouted out and children run to the discoveries. Suddenly the questions aren’t coming from the teacher; they are coming from the students eager to observe, learn and understand their world.
The gold of classroom learning is the“Ah Ha” moment when the student makes a discovery or connection.
The garden is full of “Ah Ha’s” but it also has the “Umph” moments of exercise, the “Yum Yum” moments of tasting and the “We Did It!” moments of accomplishment. While say we are growing a garden, we are really growing children who become stronger through exercise, healthier through better diets, and more powerful with their learning and actions.
Why is the soil here different than the soil two feet down or over by the wall? What is this rock and how was it made? Where did that piece of tile, metal or root come from? What was here before? Can you see the roots, insects and larvae in the soil? What do they consume? How does water percolate through the soil?
Here are questions about chemistry, biology and botany. How can we test and amend the soil to provide the right combination of nutrients for this plant? What crops and rotations can replenish the soil?
Here are questions about how we use and value plants. Where did these plants come from? How have they been used for foods, medicines, spices, teas, baskets, building materials and clothes and dyes? How foods become part of our cultural identity. How we can grow and distribute food to create healthier families, profits or materials?
Here are questions that involve the rotation earth around the sun, an understanding of the soil, drainage, sun exposure, the needs of particular plants, the design of the garden and paths. The garden is a world that our children can help build.
Here are questions about the needs of different plants, different seasons and different helpers. School gardens are a perfect opportunity to create collaboration among students, parents and teachers as they work together. Who will tend the plants during the summer?
Here are questions of sharing and earning that go to the core of our ethical and economic systems. How much do we give away? Do we sell it? How can we provide nutrition to mothers and newborns so our children grow up without learning disabilities?
In the garden students observe and interact with complex systems:air, water, sun, temperature, soil, plants, insects and animals. What are the needs of our plants and how can we create the right combination of conditions to create better crops? Our children learn to observe, test, create solutions and improve outcomes. Perhaps the best lessons are that a garden is never done and that there is always next year.
This simple act reveals the awe of life and our responsibility to care and nurture living things.
Numerous studies show that outdoor education improves test scores for children.
But when you see the bright eyes and smiles of children who are excited by their discoveries and accomplishments you will truly understand the importance of this learning. Students who are bored in class can come alive with the real learning and active work of a garden. You will be amazed at how well your garden will grow your students. This is learning as fresh and tasty as a pea plucked from the vine.
“I believe that education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living.”-John Dewey, My Pedagogic Creed Spirits of Hopkins The auditorium at Benjamin Franklin High School is as dim and faded as the community that surrounds it. The wooden seats are draped with the heavy coats and protest signs brought for the long march ahead. The crowd, clusters of young and old, leans into the speeches to sort the earnest words from the echoes that chant them back again. A painted outline of the proposed incinerator belching smoke looms behind Kelly Klinefelter Lee, the English teacher at the school as steps to the podium and raises up a spirit from the past. “The American philosopher and educator John Dewey said, “The only freedom of enduring importance is the freedom of intelligence, that is to say freedom of observation and of judgment exercised on behalf of purposes that are intrinsically worthwhile.” Lee pauses for a moment, letting the room fill with these words from the past. Published over three quarters of a century ago, these words by a Dewey, (Hopkins Ph.D. philosophy, 1884) still remain important revelations for our educational system. His ideas can be recognized in new initiatives for project based learning, service learning and community schools. Then Lee adds her own voice, her own echo. “When you come to school here at Ben (Benjamin Franklin High School) your teachers work to make you critical thinkers. Yes, reading and writing and calculating are important.. but we are also preparing you to be voters and parents and community members and maybe even someday, office holders.” “I’d argue that our most important goal as teachers in a democratic nation is to teach you to use your intelligence and your skills to understand your world, to analyze the problems you observe in your community, to evaluate the decisions being made by your leaders and to use your voices to object when you object.” “There is much to object to in the case of this incinerator. If built it would bring hundreds of trucks of trash imported from other counties and states into this community every single day. That trash will burn and turn out mercury, and lead, greenhouse gases and particulate matter into the air that we breathe. As young critical thinkers, you are looking at this situation and asking the right questions.” “Aren’t there better and cleaner ways to make power for our city? Don’t we owe our earth better stewardship? And why is the incinerator coming to our neighborhood?” “You students know that the children who will breathe the incinerators pollution are already asked to bear a bigger burden than most. You know that the children of this community are more likely to be food insecure, more likely to be housing insecure, more likely to be the victims of crime than other children in Maryland. You know that the children in this community have been disproportionately affected by economic crisis and by government cuts. You know that the children in of Brooklyn-Curtis Bay go to under resourced and underfunded public schools and you know, Destiny, you just told us that these children already breathe some of the dirtiest air in Maryland and that their young bodies pay a horrible price for this. So this is not just an environmental issue. It is a social justice issue.” “It is a moment when our learning community has to ask our leaders– we must– why does this incinerator belong here, why does it belong here, in this community?” “This is a cause that is intrinsically worthwhile to which we must develop our minds and our hearts and our best efforts. Students, thank you for sharing your time and passion in the service of your community.” “We are blessed by your offerings and we are grateful for your leadership.” As the applause greets Lee back to her seat among the crowd, it is clear that the ideas of John Dewey are alive here. His ideas can be recognized in project based learning, service learning and community schools. Studying stuff that matters. Solving problems in the world. Dewey viewed education as a social process and the school as an institution which would create social reform. As students march with their teachers, parents and supporters to the site of the proposed incinerator their voices ring forward together to protect their families and community. “Who’s City?” “Our City!” “Who’s City?” “Our City!” It’s a cold mile march past piles of coal to the chain and barbed wire fence that surrounds the site of the proposed incinerator. But as students talk about the pollution in their community, the class where all the kids had asthma, and the neighbors who have died from cancer, there is an echo of another voice whispering from the past. Rachel Carson (Hopkins MA, 1932) pointed out the effects of chemicals on the ecosystem in her book, Silent Spring, a hauntingly beautiful love letter and requiem to the world. She urged us to realize that as part of nature, we too, taste the effects of the poisons we spread. So when Destiny Watford worries that the incinerator could aggravate her mother’s asthma and when Michael Graham worries that people will be killed for profit, it is clear that these new voices will send their echoes into the future just as Carson did. Our buildings, roads and universities often bear the names of those who have built and gone before. We travel on and through them to our destinations. But it’s the invisible avenues of thought, practice and conscience that guide us best through our lives and toward our future. At the dark end of the road, these voices from our past offer us light and compass to illuminate and choose our path. They beat within our hearts and connect us hand in hand with those who went before and those who will follow. The students, teachers and community of Benjamin Franklin High School are learning and marching together, shouting and singing their care for each other and their world. Who will hear their echoes?
Will Science Kill Us Or Save Us?
The record so far is…Yes.
Nice invention, da Vinci, but if the plane flies, how would you shoot it down?
Great theory, Einstein, but how can we use it to make bombs that could destroy the world?
Nice process, Haber, it can help produce food to quadruple the world population.
So how can we use it for gas warfare and explosives?
Interesting demonstration, Edison. How many enemy soldiers did you say your machine could electrocute?
Even our vaunted Nobel peace prize, was established by Alfred Nobel who established over 90 armament factories in his lifetime.
So the jury is out on science and its getting more interesting by the moment.
Because it appears that we have been participating in man’s largest experiment– without noticing for the first 150 years.
This climate change experiment is particularly interesting for two reasons.
First, we are experimenting upon the entire world in ways that could have drastic consequences.
Second, we are trapped inside it.
Seems like this would create incentives for good outcomes and rapid results don’t it?
Once we experimenters realize that we are inside of the experiment we would immediately start altering the conditions to ensure that we and our planet live long and prosper, right?
Happy music plays, everyone hugs, movie ends. Goodnight, thanks for coming!
It is not quite going that way, is it?
You see this experiment involves a small zoo of lab animals. We have white mice, chickens, monkeys and sloths.
The white mice are wearing lab coats and pointing to charts of steadily dire temperature readings and photographs of melting ice sheets. They are standing on tip toe atop reams of data and squeaking as loud as they can to be heard . “It’s bad! Must change!”
The reaction among the rest of the animals is mixed.
The Big Chickens that own coal and oil companies are running around screaming “The sky isn’t falling! The sky isn’t falling! And the sea won’t rise!” They are very adamant that smoke from their products won’t harm us, just like the tobacco companies were very adamant that their cigarettes wouldn’t cause cancer.
The Scared Chickens with insurance companies have put money on the high water lines and they are squawking up a storm. With greenhouse emissions on the increase, insurance is becoming a very risky business. Payouts for flooding and extreme weather events endanger their golden nest eggs. These conservative guys are running the numbers and they do not like the odds.
The Monkeys have grabbed the car keys and are stepping on the gas. They like it fast and cheap and have their eye fixed on their bank account, the next quarterly return and their bucket list. They will fly across the world to view the melting of the last glaciers and put the images on flicker so their great grandchildren can have a glimpse of what was. But they won’t insulate their homes or put up a solar panel. Storms keep wiping out beachfront properties? Rebuild! Let’s Keep Dancing Until the World Ends!
The Sloths are hanging listlessly in the branches of government sending emergency aid to an increasing number of disaster areas, allowing oil pipelines and exports of oil, gas and coal. Money to improve energy efficiency or to switch to renewable energy is just a few inches from the sloths reach and he is pondering whether it’s worth the effort.
So with these animals running the zoo, things have not gone well.
Since the Kyoto Protocol world greenhouse gas emissions have risen by an average of two percent each year.
Of the ten hottest years recorded since 1880, nine have occurred in this decade.
The word from government isn’t “avoid” or “protect” any longer. It’s resilience.
Resilience is the new “Duck and Cover” from the Cold War where children were taught to hide under their desk in case of a nuclear exchange that would destroy life on earth. It means that we are willing to spend far more to try to patch a broken world than it would cost to protect it now.
If a foreign army or terrorist group attacked a square foot of American soil, we would sacrifice our lives and treasure to reclaim that soil and bring the invaders to justice. But what do we do when it is us attacking our planet with our needless carbon emissions? Who do we gas, bomb or electrocute then?
Scientists can no longer be patient, quiet or neutral as this war is waged upon our world.
Our future demands that we play a deep role in realigning human endeavor with our natural world.
Once we pretended to be the controllers of the world, somehow above and apart from nature.
But we now know that we are woven inexorably within the web of the living systems of our world.
Incentives that allow the few to profit as they poison our earth, our air and our bodies can no longer be tolerated.
The true costs of dirty energy should not be paid with the health of our citizens and the future of our world. Shifting the costs of pollution onto governments and citizens is not true capitalism or free enterprise but plunder and folly.
Scientists, health experts and economists must now join together to demonstrate the true costs of pollution and the economic viability of renewable energy.
And let’s join with some good lawyers.
As scientists we collect and analyze data using sound scientific principals and standards.
Lawyers call this evidence.
Just as tobacco companies had to pay for some of the health costs of their products, the coal and petroleum industries should pay for some of the damage they have done to our air and our health. They should carry insurance and bonds against future health and damage claims.
This will change the economics of pollution. No longer will those who pollute the air and water remain free of the health, economic and social costs that they create for others to bear. And the money from these payments will help develop and implement clean and truly cheap energy sources for our world.
At last, our free enterprise system will be able to choose energy, technology and industry that is truly efficient and sustainable.
In this experiment we are not chained and blindfolded like Houdini, but free to move inside the invisible box of our atmosphere like Marcel Marceau to create solutions that will protect us and our world. Let us not miss this critical moment to create a non-smoking planet.
It is time for science—for us– to save the world.