Wow! Ed: Newsletter from the Center for Educational Improvment
STEM & Curriculum Relevance for 21st Century Learning
November 2016
In This Issue

Round 2: Teacher Stipends and Student Competition Food Insecurity
CEI is now implementing Heart Centered Education Dexter Park Innovation School, MA
CEI STEM Workshops
Please take this national survey to understand how schools approach teaching students about collaboration

Dear Educators,

H ow relevant is your curriculum?  Is it full of highly engaging lessons that stimulate students to come up with innovative 21st Century solutions?

With our October issue of Wow!,we embarked on a program to share curricula that advance compassion and 21st Century learning. During this time of year, with so many international problems, CEI is focusing on STEM and civic responsibility. During November, as we approach Thanksgiving, schools have opportunities to help students learn about the food and safe water needs of people in the US and around the globe. 

A surge of water, a wind that destroys everything in its path, or a long, hot summer can destroy dreams and turn lives upside down. Read on to learn about teachers who were awarded stipends from CEI, consider how STEM is being implemented in two exemplary school programs, and  a resource for schools to use in teaching students about environmental and civic responsibilities.

CEI Announces 8 Award Winners for Hunger, Food Insecurity Curriculum

Eight teachers have been selected to receive stipends from CEI for implementing the  Combating Food Insecurity Curriculum that CEI developed with Learning to Give and the National Turkey Federation. With the curriculum, students work in teams, learn about civic responsibility, and develop solutions to  hunger - food insecurity, water quality, and food production, distribution, and availability.

One teacher who implemented a pilot version of the curriculum last year reported that, "Students empathized with the challenges faced by families around the world. . . They were inspired to take action."  Another teacher found that, "The students increased their awareness and passion for others, for people who cannot afford or have access to nutritional food choices."  See also the pie chart below for more results from that pilot with six teachers.

If you missed our first deadline, please note that CEI just began the Round 2 competition (deadline is Dec. 9). For  Round 2, CEI will award 21 stipends to teachers and also provide awards to students for research papers, essays, and service learning projects.
The 2016 Award Winners
Eight teachers were awarded stipends to implement the Curriculum between now and March 15, 2017 in MA, MD, NC, NH, TN, VA, and DC. This work furthers CEI's goals of helping students to become more conscious and compassionate citizens. The teachers receiving stipends include: 
  • Alexandra Bowen, Kingsman Academy, Washington, DC
  • Chris Burris, Homestead Elementary, Cumberland, TN
  • Kelly DeVareness, Lee Elementary School, Lee, MA
  • Stephen Facques, McKelvie Elementary School, Bedford, NH
  • Danielle Green, Boushell, MS, Richmond, VA
  • Kaitlin Montgomery, the Al-Iman School, Raleigh, NC
  • Alicia Passante, Center City Public Charter School, Washington, DC
  • Autumn Snell, Buck Lodge MS, Adelphi, MD
In Washington, DC - Two schools 
At Center City PCS, Alicia Passante will implement the Food Insecurity Curriculum as part of the ESL After the Bell afterschool program to help support the  academic growth of students who speak a language other than English at home. ESL After the Bell centers around service learning projects that are cross-curricular and Common Core aligned. Center City has had tremendous success with this program and has been featured by local and national stakeholders for its innovative programs that support the diverse demographics of its students.

At Kingsman Academy PCS, Alexandra Bowen will introduce the Food Insecurity Curriculum as part of an Expeditionary Learning program to help meet its mission of preparing students for post-secondary success and to become responsible citizens. Ms. Bowen will use the CEI stipend to help fund student-based projects and to promote nutrition and making healthy choices. One of the unique features of Kingsman PCS is its focus on students who are over-aged and under-credited, have attendance problems, or have behavioral concerns.

Other Urban Schools
During the next few months, 8th grade students at the Thomas C. Boushall Middle School in Richmond VA will learn about hunger and food insecurity in the US and globally as Danielle Green implements the Food Insecurity Curriculum. Boushall is a high poverty urban middle school that serves an almost entirely Black and Latino population of students. When asked what she found particularly appealing about the Curriculum, Ms. Greene stated, "My students live in a food desert, and I believe this curriculum's emphasis on civic responsibility will encourage them to be active participate in changing that."
Kaitlin Montgomery, a middle school social studies teacher at Al-Iman School, a private Islamic school in Raleigh, NC, intends to use the Food Insecurity Curriculum with 92 6th-8th grade students and 6 teachers. In 1992, a group of dedicated individuals founded the school with at that time, just nine students. Now, Al-Iman teachers hundreds of young students to achieve academic excellence. At Al-Iman the Food Insecurity Curriculum will help students prepare to become global citizens.

Rural Implementation
Chris Burris, an agriculture teacher, plans to use the Food Insecurity Curriculum at Homestead Elementary School in Cumberland, TN. Chris is in his first year of teaching, having worked the past 10 years in the heavy equipment, heavy truck and farm equipment business. He currently teaches an introductory agriculture class to 5th-8th grade students. That class spans all elements of agriculture, from plants to animals, to agricultural mechanics to sustainability.

Chris' students include children with deep roots in this agricultural community as well as students who are have very limited awareness and understanding of farming and food production. In his application, Mr. Burris stated, "Students, even in the rural area in which we live, take for granted how they are fed three times daily."

Homestead Elementary is a unique school - most of it was built in the late 1930s as part of the New Deal. Most of the original buildings are still used. 

Small Town and Suburban Implementation
Stephen Facques will bring the Food Insecurity Curriculum to the afterschool program in McKelvie Intermediate School which serves 750 5th and 6th grade students in Bedford, NH. This year, McKelvie was rated the top Intermediate School in New Hampshire. 

In Adelphi, MD, Autumn Snell, an AVID Coordinator who prepares students for college, will coordinate implementation of the Food Insecurity Curriculum with 16 8th grade students and two teachers at Buck Lodge Middle School. In reference to the Curriculum, Ms. Snell stated, "There are two aspects that I find particularly appealing, both that students would have a chance to be involved in service and that they would participate in project-based learning." Although 92% of the students receive free or reduced lunches, Ms. Snell describes her students as "incredibly generous and interested in helping others around them."
In Massachusetts, Kelly DeVareness plans to introduce the Food Insecurity Curriculum at Lee Elementary School with 60 8th grade students. She will focus on social studies, geography, and civic responsibilities.

Lee ES is located in the culturally rich Berkshire Hills of Western Massachusetts. Lee ES educates students from the towns of Lee and Tyringham, and from other communities through school choice agreements, in grades Pre-K through 6. They have a diverse student population. Lee, MA was once a thriving mill town; however, with those days behind them, Lee ES now has a free and reduced lunch rate of 55%. They have recently committed to implementing CEI's Heart Centered Learning approach.  
High School STEM Exemplars and Implications for Elementary and Middle Schools
By Lindsay Reeves, CEI Intern
S TEM instruction is on the rise. While students in the US still, on average, score lower than their international counterparts on math and science-based standardized exams, significant efforts are being made at the federal, state, and local levels to assist students in closing STEM achievement gaps. This is resulting in some success. More specifically, the US Department of Education has instituted several programs with STEM being the primary emphasis, engendered also in Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and the Magnet Schools Assistance. Not only are the goals of these programs to facilitate general STEM learnedness, but they also place a particular emphasis on ensuring that minority groups have access to quality materials and are afforded the same education as the majority population.
High Technology High School in Newark, NJ. High Technology High School in Newark, NY is a STEM- focused school that has made consider- able strides in producing highly equipped, adept students.

The statistics reflecting graduation rates and overall performance on high stakes tests are astounding alone. Moreover,
  • The most intriguing aspect of High Technology is that roughly 70 percent of their students ultimately pursue engineering or a related field as their major in college.
  • A model of diversity, High Tech is the home of primarily Hispanic students.
  • Teachers who instruct at and students who attend this school often attribute their successes to the emphasis on analytical thinking within the classroom. 
Interestingly, when a student commits a disciplinary infraction, he or she is assigned a research project, a consequence that is designed to mirror real life implications of acts like cheating in college or plagiarizing in one's career field. In addition to the prescribed standards for following rules, curriculum rigor also contributes to yielding a near 100 percent pass rate of High Tech students taking AP exams (Koebler, 2011). 
Siemens Competition Semi-Finalists. Most recently, two students from High Technology were named finalists in the Siemens Competition. The Siemens Competition is held each year and is the nation's number one science research competition that awards its finalists and winners with scholarship money that can be applied to tuition, books, and other related student fees at the university level. In order for students to be competitive in the process, they must submit an 18-page research report; roughly 2,000 students apply each year (High Technology High School, 2016).

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHS) in Alexandria, Virginia. Like High Technology, TJHS boasts a perfect graduation, AP pass, and mathematics proficiency percentage. The operative presumption held by those who question the legitimacy of their success is that Thomas Jefferson receives large stipends and is considered a fully funded institution; however, it receives the same funding levels as other high schools within the county and on average with the state.
  • TJHS has a total minority enrollment of 69%.
  • Like High Technology, Thomas Jefferson places exceedingly high standards on student proficiency in research-oriented tasks; the goal is to simulate that which is expected at the collegiate level (Schonfeld, 2014).
HacKTJ. HackTJ In an effort to encourage student participation in computer science, TJHS hosts its annual HackTJ, which is a student-run hack-a-thon where each team is given 24 hours to learn how to code various programs, including platforms that mirror social media sites like Snapchat. Thousands of dollars in prizes are awarded to the prevailing group, which will be held from March 25 through the 26 of 2017. 

The Future of STEM at All Grade Levels. The general consensus and trajectory of the state of STEM learnedness within the context of education within the US appears to be bright. As overall graduation rates and exam preparedness are on the rise, schools, however, are still understaffed to help students prepare for STEM- based careers. To help motivate student participation in STEM programs and to encourage them to think more carefully about undertaking a program of study in science or technology, support must be administered at the local, state, and federal level. If this sentiment is continuously fostered, more educational institutions around the country are on the way to producing the most capable, next generation of students fully able to tackle the most pressing challenges of the 21st century.
Further, for students to become engaged at the high school level, they must first realize the importance of STEM in early grades. That is, children first learn through structured play, which initially begins in the context of a kindergarten classroom. Reifying enjoyment of STEM concepts throughout elementary and middle school requires creative instruction and allotting time for projects that often require hands-on participation. Facilitating such projects earlier on will allow students to develop an appreciation and passion for science and technology, notions that will sustain their enjoyment and appreciation of STEM beyond the classroom and into the real world. 

Koebler, J. (2011, September 27). New Jersey High School challenges the gifted. US News and World Report.

High Technology High School. (2016, October 21). Two students named as siemens competition semi-finalists.

Schonfeld, Z. (2014, September/October). The number 1 high school in America offers a real head start. Newsweek.  
21st Century Curriculum Implications: Water Quality Concerns
By Grace Rubenstein, CEI Intern, and Christine Mason
Are students in your school studying about water quality and safety issues? CEI's mission and vision is to provide leadership to help schools address 21st Century learning. We see water safety and quality as related to 1) STEM and 2) Heart Centered Learning and teaching students about consciousness and compassion for others.

In this article, we provide background information on how water quality concerns that are impacting Americans and others. Here are a few ideas for instructing students in your school. The ideas come from the CEI Food Insecurity Curriculum.
  • As your students study STEM, they might examine a specific concern and then problem solve about ways that they could be involved in service learning projects to address concerns.
  • Students could also be involved in reporting on the extent of problems, factors influencing those problems, and steps that others are taking to address concerns.
  • Students could also work in teams to research civic responsibility and prepare presentations to share with classmates, and possibly parents and community members.
21st Century Concerns. When we consider 21st Century skills and lessons, understanding how to meet water and food needs rises to the top in terms of its importance for humans, animals, and our environment. In 2016 alone, several events impacted water quality in the US and internationally. In the US, one of the biggest environmental stories was the Flint, Michigan crisis. Most recently a judge ordered, as a stop-gap measure, four cases of bottled water to be delivered directly to residents until the water quality can be guaranteed.

Another significant event in 2016 that has impacted water security and quality was Hurricane Matthew. One of the hardest hit places was Haiti. In early October 2016, Hurricane Matthew wreaked havoc throughout the Caribbean, and inflicted immense damage along the western parts of the island. Enormous waves and wind destroyed hundreds of homes, as well as wiped out crops, livestock, and businesses. The economic struggles of a country trying to recover from such a severe event increase exponentially without the sources of income many people relied on.

Compounded Impact in a Poverty-Stricken Area. Even before Matthew occurred, 40% of Haitians lacked access to clean water, while 80% did not have access to a sanitary toilet. The effects of last month's disaster have compounded upon already dire circumstances, causing issues with water, health, displacement, and education. Children as a demographic are especially vulnerable to these problems. Health issues have and will continue to arise if all basic human needs are not met. Reports show that 112,500 children under age five are at risk for acute malnutrition. To combat some of the consequences of the wreckage on children in Haiti, UNICEF has provided hygiene kits, blankets, and food to 3,552 children.

Haiti's Water Crisis. One key need that requires immediate attention is the water crisis now facing Haiti. Lack of access to clean water has led to a cholera outbreak that hospitals, diminished both in number and resources, struggle to keep under control. In response to this epidemic, UNICEF has begun to organize vaccinations for 900,000 people. Additionally, UNICEF and its partners have committed to providing clean water to 100,000 people, and have distributed water purifying tablets and hygiene kits.

Access to Education. Perhaps overlooked in light of the pressing health concerns, access to education faces serious obstacles. According to the government, the hurricane flooded, destroyed, and damaged over 420 public schools. That figure leaves out the private schools, which greatly outnumber public schools. Estimates of unsafe school buildings range from 600 to 900. Furthermore, at least 156 of the salvageable schools in the affected area had to be converted to emergency shelters to accommodate a portion of the 175,509 displaced people now living in shelters. Combining the destroyed, damaged, and re-purposed schools, these numbers mean that over 100,00 children have been unable to continue their education.
The sudden cessation of mental stimulation is reversing the progress Haiti had made thus far in advancing education accessibility to an acceptable level. Returning from this delayed development will prove exception- ally difficult for schools once they reopen. The impact of the storm on education was not limited to the school buildings themselves. Even if substitute locations are found, many students still have to replace their uniforms, books, and supplies. The destruction of businesses also handicaps many family's ability to fund their children's education.

Humanitarian Aid. International humanitarian aid will go a long way towards jump starting Haiti's recovery. It is vital that this aid arrives in a timely manner so as to save children from the mental and psychological repercussions of surviving a devastating disaster that has subsequently ripped normalcy from their lives. Haiti's flash appeal for aid requested $4,375,000 to dedicate to education. The money will rebuild schools and replace lost learning materials. This investment in children is the only way to ensure a brighter future for the people of Haiti, as children hold the future in their hands. With all other basic needs met, education becomes the most important vehicle to transport Haiti to healthier and happier days.

How Students Can Study about Water and Food Concerns.
According to the Middle Web , good STEM lessons:
  1. Help students apply math and science through authentic, hands-on learning
  2. Include the use of (or creation of) technology
  3. Involve students in using an engineering design process
  4. Engage students in working in collaborative teams
  5. Appeal equally to girls and boys
  6. Reinforce relevant math and science standards
  7. Address a real-world problem
When considering water quality and security, students can learn through cross-curricular activities that include: understanding the metrics, reading charts and graphs, and making calculations of needs and costs; involving students in problem solving and even the practical application of the engineering design process; and delivering logical, research-based presentations to peers and the community.

Curriculum Support. The CEI Food Security Curriculum has links to multiple sites to help students research issues and develop a greater understanding of the extent of problems and possible solutions. Another resource is the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). At NEEF, students can locate information about global climate and weather changes. At that sit are articles and video clips on the impact of droughts, practical ways to save water, preparing for hurricanes, and the future of agriculture. There are a myriad of practical resources available to teachers, and many include up-to-date statistics and recommendations for alleviating serious problems facing our planet.

Implications for Schools

Water safety and concerns can be studied at all grade levels. Younger students can participate in simple experiments. At other grade levels, students can collect and examine water samples, or conduct web search.At the middle and high school level, not only can students learn about concerns that impact Americans, they also can understand global needs and international efforts to address problems that exist today.

In Haiti, the devastation caused by Hurricane Mathew impacted health, finances, jobs, housing, emotional security and well being, and education. Children are a particularly vulnerable group and humanitarian efforts make a considerable difference. In preparing youth for tomorrow, an important consideration is how they will handle the events they are likely to face in their lifetime. This work is not only relevant, it is essential.
Feast or ?

Food? Water?  Are you one of the lucky ones?  Will your students and families celebrate Thanksgiving with a feast for family and friends this year? Are your students helping others with greater needs?  Perhaps they are visiting a food pantry, delivering meals to a homeless shelter, or participating in a service learning project to help those in need in the US or elsewhere. However, in the US, one in 5 students lives in poverty. So perhaps some of your students are being helped by the generosity of others.

Whatever the demographics of your students, how relevant is the curriculum you teach? Are your students learning about ways to help ease the burdens faced by others? As you consider our Thanksgiving tradition this year, I encourage principals and teachers to reflect on how you can assure that your students are informed by the realities others live, that your students gain practical experiences that further their compassion and caring.


Christine Mason
Center for Educational Improvement