Celebrate Women’s History Month with STEM Stories

The STEM Stories website features a growing collection of digital resources that highlight the lives and work of individuals involved in STEM fields (mainly women). It combines compelling personal stories and multimedia to interest intermediate and middle school students in STEM subjects and careers.

From the In the Spotlight menu, you’ll meet 10 present-day women who are featured in depth, with interviews, photo albums and more.  They include dolphin communication researcher Diana Reiss, atmospheric chemist Susan Solomon, biologist and astronaut Millie Hughes-Fulford, and robotics engineer Heather Knight. (Heather helped work on the Rube Goldberg machine sequence for the OK-Go music video This Too Shall Pass).  On the Clips tab, the database includes short videos that introduce individuals working in varied STEM careers.  The Profiles tab lets you search biographies about women working in STEM fields throughout history.  Some include photo albums, such as Mary Pennington, Rachel Carson, and Virginia Apgar. (Tip:  double-click on images to see a larger view).

The project team, headed by Lois McLean and Rick Tessman (McLean Media) created STEM Stories with girls in mind, drawing on design ideas from an after-school club for at-risk middle and high school girls. In a 2010 pilot, more than 200 students (Grades 4–7) in Nevada County, California, used the site in classroom activities. In one school, fourth- and seventh-grade students worked in pairs to create pop-up books based on featured individuals. Survey results found no major differences between the responses of boys and girls. In fact, teachers reported that students did not even comment on or question the site’s emphasis on women. And, although the website focuses on personal stories, most students also reported learning something new about science and engineering.

STEM Stories was funded through a grant from the NSF’s Research on Gender in Science in Engineering Program (#HRD-0734004). New content is being added every month, including more current and historical photos, profiles, videos, and interactives.

To introduce your students to the STEM Stories site, try these activities:

STEM Stories Treasure Hunt

STEM Stories Crossword Puzzle

STEM Stories Lesson Ideas


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/19/2012.

Let’s Go Camping — In Antarctica!

My family plans on doing some camping this summer but nothing like this! Listen to the story of an 8th grade science teacher from Boulder, CO who got to spend a month in Antarctica.

Of Snow Forts and Frostbite: Learning to Work (and Play) at the Poles

What’s it like, doing research at the bottom, or the top, of the world? Hear the passionate stories of one teacher’s trip to Antarctica, and the messages he brought home to his students. Plus, hear stories of researchers battling subzero temperatures and dangerous conditions to gather data about the Earth’s climate.

List to the podcast.

Exploring Careers in Mathematics

Even though the potential connection between today’s math classroom and the jobs of the future is frequently cited in speeches, reports, and news headlines, busy middle school students may not be paying attention. Here are online resources that can help you make the connection more relevant, and a lot more engaging, to preteens. In some cases, the connection appears in the words of young people who recognize that math and science were the keys to jobs they love.

BLS Career Information
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has adapted career information from its Occupational Outlook Handbook on a web site just for students in grades 4-8. By clicking on a job characteristic—building and fixing things, managing money, helping people—or a subject area–math, social studies, science—the student is taken to a page with five or six occupations and links to related jobs. On the page titled “If you’re good at math, then look at these possible careers,” the jobs listed are statistician, electrical engineer, surveyor, physicist, cost estimator, and actuary.

Role Model Project for Girls: Professional Women’s Careers
Computer professionals created this web site at which women share descriptions of their work and the paths that led them there. Clicking on a career will take students randomly to a contributor’s brief statement. Not all contributors mention math or science, but many do. A project engineer advises: “Take as much math and science as possible even if you aren’t sure what you want to do after high school. That is the best way to keep all of your options open while you explore various career options.”

The Fun Works…for Careers You Never Knew Existed.
This site funded by the National Science Foundation is designed for students in grades 6-9 and focuses on science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. Students can take a quiz on their interests and strengths to help pinpoint career areas. Or they can go directly to math careers, where they’ll find more than 20 occupations. A teacher’s page lists resources for classroom activities.

Discover Engineering.org
At this web site designed for young people, engineers offer a menu of career explorations, including contests, games, activities from the PBS shows Cyberchase and Zoom, and biographies of engineers who are just two to five years out of school.


We Want Your Feedback
We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We appreciate your feedback on all of our Middle School Portal 2 publications. You can also email us at msp@msteacher.org. Post updated 4/19/2012.

Science-Themed Days and Weeks

Days and weeks designated to recognize advances or current issues in science are often accompanied by web sites that can be useful to teachers and students year-round.

Sun-Earth Day – on or near the Spring Equinox
NASA maintains this site with lesson plans, space weather centers, stunning images, an online book about observers of the skies from stargazers to spacecraft, and many other features.

Solar Week – on or near the Spring EquinoxNSDL Annotation
By clicking on a day of the week, teachers will find background information and activities related to a specific sun topic. The Sun-Earth Media Viewer gives real-time images.

Earth Day – April 22NSDL Annotation
The Wilderness Society gives the history of Earth Day and lesson plans for grades 4-6. Other features are fact sheets on migratory birds and a slideshow of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

National Environmental Education Week – April 15-22NSDL Annotation
Environmental educators have developed a full week of K-12 preparation for Earth Day. Reducing energy use is the focus.

Lockheed Martin Space Day – May 6
Space-related activities are designed to interest young people in careers in science, math, engineering, and technology. Five lesson plans are tied to national standards.

World Ocean Day – June 8
Along with materials focused on World Ocean Day observances, the official site lists “cool links” to recordings of whale sounds, ecologically sound seafood choices, and conservation tips.

Earth Science Week – October 14-20NSDL Annotation
With the theme “The Pulse of Earth Science,” the American Geological Institute is taking stock of earth science education nationwide. Teachers will find a number of classroom activities.

We Need Your Help

We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School PortalNSDL Annotation publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.

Exploring Careers in Engineering

Professional groups representing engineers in many fields have developed web sites to introduce middle school students to career opportunities. All of the sites described here are noteworthy for their appealing graphics, kid-friendly approach, and access to the personal stories of young engineers. The importance of math and science learning is emphasized throughout.

The Engineering AlphabetNSDL Annotation
Links to pages of information about engineering fields, from aerospace to transportation, are featured at this K-12 site, sponsored by the American Society for Engineering Education. Also available from the homepage are personal stories of young engineers and resources for teachers.

Civil Engineering and MathNSDL Annotation
In response to a student question about what concepts of math and physics are used by civil engineers, Dr. Math of Math Forum gives a four-part answer. He also points out that most professionals need solid math skills in areas other than their specialty; for example, making business decisions.

Discover Engineering.org
This site introduces careers in engineering with a choice of features designed to appeal to students in middle school and up: games, links to PBS shows, profiles of young engineers, downloadables from a number of sources, and links to activities and projects. Be patient. The intro takes a few seconds, then the home page becomes visible.

Engineer Girl!
The National Academy of Engineering created this web site to acquaint young women with the opportunities for them in the engineering fields. Students can email questions to practicing engineers. A section of the web site called Celebration of Women in Engineering provides resources for parents, teachers, and other mentors to use in encouraging girls in math and science.

TryEngineering.org
Designed to be a resource for students and their parents, teachers and school counselors, this site is a portal to information about engineering and engineering careers. Teachers will find a section of lesson plans that align with education standards and apply engineering principles in the classroom. Students can ask questions of practicing engineers and undergraduate students.

We Need Your Help

We want and need your ideas, suggestions, and observations. What would you like to know more about? What questions have your students asked? We invite you to share with us and other readers by posting your comments. Please check back often for our newest posts or download the RSS feed for this blog. You can also request email notification when new content is posted (see right navigation bar).

Let us know what you think and tell us how we can serve you better. We want your feedback on all of the NSDL Middle School PortalNSDL Annotation publications. Email us at msp@msteacher.org.