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


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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.

June 8 Is World Oceans Day

World Oceans Day will be observed on June 8. Events are planned across the United States in coastal and inland locations, often aquariums. You can find a list of events and add your own to the World Oceans Day web site. The web site also gives suggestions for local events to increase awareness of the importance of the health of the oceans. The concept for a “World Ocean Day” was first proposed in 1992 by Canada at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, and it has been unofficially celebrated every year since then. In 2008, the United Nations by resolution designed June 8 as the official date.

The Middle School Portal 2: Math & Science Pathways (MSP2) project has developed resources that can support your teaching and learning about oceans. You can also search the MSP2 collection of resources for resources specifically developed for middle school science.

Ocean Systems Resource Guide
This resource guide from the Middle School Portal 2 project, written specifically for teachers, provides links to exemplary resources including background information, lessons, career information, and related national science education standards. This online resource guide focuses on earth/physical science including volcanic island formation and tsunamis; life science concepts including ocean ecosystems, food webs, and biodiversity; science in personal and social perspectives including pollution, endangered species and conservation; and related careers.

Earth’s Oceans Resource Guide
This resource guide from the Middle School Portal 2 project, written specifically for teachers, provides links to exemplary resources including background information, lessons, career information, and related national science education standards. This guide focuses on the oceans as a part of the Earth system: the link between oceans and climate; tsunamis; life science concepts such as ocean ecosystems, food webs, and biodiversity; real data – both sources of and projects that use real data; and related careers. There is also a section on the misconceptions commonly surrounding ocean concepts and finally the National Science Education Standards that these resource connect to. So even though you might not teach a unit called oceans, the oceans can be used as a context within an existing unit, such as ecosystems, energy transfer, systems thinking, or methods in science.

The Powerful Punch of a Hurricane
Centuries ago the Spanish named the storms that sunk their ships in the Caribbean Huracan, after the Mayan god of wind, storms, and fire. Whatever we call these tropical storms today – hurricanes, typhoons, or cyclones – we are amazed by their power to change or destroy habitats, damage property, and harm people.

We Are All Connected to the Oceans
This blog post describes a lesson that helps students to identify how humans impact the marine environment, make a personal connection with the oceans, and raise awareness of marine environmental issues. Using current marine articles and video clips, students will engage in their own environmental summit and write an action plan to raise awareness.

Coral Reefs Faced With Extinction
This post describes an article about the possible extinction of coral reefs and related National Science Education Standards.


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.

World Ocean Day

The Ocean Project, a network of aquariums, science museums, and conservation organizations, has designated June 8 as World Ocean Day. The network’s web site offers resources for these institutions to use in making the public aware of the significance of the ocean. In the resources below, you’ll find background information and lesson plans to help your students understand the importance of the ocean.

Ocean Explorer
This National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration site provides standards-based lesson plans, multimedia presentations and learning activities, descriptions of careers, professional development resources, the history of ocean exploration, and much more.

NOVA Online: Into the Abyss
This site chronicles the ambitious expedition that occurred in June and July 1998 a mile and a half beneath the sea off the Pacific Northwest coast where scientists attempted to retrieve several black smoker chimneys from the seafloor. These chimneys are home to bizarre life forms that thrive far beyond the reach of the sun’s light.

International Year of the Ocean
Created for the 1998 Year of the Ocean, this site has a wealth of features in the Kids’ and Teachers’ Corner. Included are an educator’s guide, fact sheets, unit plans, and poster.

Visit to an Ocean Planet – Classroom Activities
More than 40 classroom activities from this web version of the Visit to an Ocean Planet CD-ROM are grouped under climate, oceanography, and life in our oceans. Each activity is correlated to the national standards. Among the topics are properties of fresh water and sea water, deep ocean circulations, wind-driven currents and bioluminescence.


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.

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.