Foundation selects homeschool program instructor for 2013 panel.
by Jane Reuter in the Highlands Ranch Herald Feb. 7, 2013
Science teacher Christine Meek was awestruck by stars at age 9. She remembers staring up at them when she lay with her head outside the tent during a family camping trip. Her sense of wonder hasn't diminished.
“The more I learn about space, the more I can understand the connection to what's going on down here,” she said.
Meek will learn much more about the cosmos in the coming year. She's among 20 educations nationwide chosen as 2013 Teacher Liaisons by the Space Foundation. The Colorado Springs-based Space Foundation is a global nonprofit that advocates for support of the space industry.
Meek teaches applied science at Platte River Academy's Classical Academy for Homeschoolers, a publicly-funded charter school that offers twice-weekly classes to homeschooled students. She also owns and operates C THE World Academy, which offers students science camps and classes during school breaks. As a Teacher Liaison, Meek will attend the annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs this spring. She'll also be a classroom advocate for space-themed education, using Space Foundation-provided training and resources.
Weaving space education into the classroom is not a new idea to Meek. Her middle school students this year created space habitats, model villages that reflect their vision of life on another planet. Constructing the villages made students consider the physical and psychological challenges of such a life through a hands-on exercise about both space and science.
“Even though space is something we want to promote and be excited about, space gets you excited about science in general,” Meek said.
Meek was urged to apply to the space Foundation by her husband Edward, an engineer at Lockheed Martin. His passion for space has inspired her.
With federal funding for space programs in decline, Meek fears knowledge will be lost to members of the now-aging generation that worked in the industry during its heyday.
As a Space Foundation Teacher Liaison, part of her job is “to spread the word,” she said.
“We are in a regression right now,” Meek said. “I know it will come back.”
Her goal is to open her students' minds to the wider world, space included.
“I'm not a teacher, I'm an awakener, and I live by that,” she said. “They may grow up to be the scientists that help us move to another planet, or clean up and fix this (climate) disaster that may be happening.”
As part of her Teacher Liaison assignment, Meek will attend the Space Foundation's 29th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs this April.
This is an article from Our Colorado News by Liese Carberry. Liese is a mother of 4 and a homeschooler for 17 years. You can see this article and more HERE.
What is this buzz word 'STEM' that is flying around today? STEM is the big word being pushed around right now to get us moving in the direction of science, technology, engineering and math. Every science reform has been pushed by politics. Americans are behind in space travel - let's get moving in the astronomy and rocket science sphere so we can catch up. Now, we are told, America is behind everyone in the science and math fields so we need to focus more on things that matter - like tests and right answers and rote memorization. STEM is pushing testing skills and is test driven, whereas curiosity is the real basis for science. Teaching math and science is not a bad thing, but sometimes students are given facts and figures that fit neatly into a shaded bubble and are not given questions that require logical thinking or thinking outside the box.
Well, what is it that scientists do? They are curious, they observe, they ask questions. They look around and see problems and patterns and then have the internal drive to seek answers to those problems and find out how the patterns fit together. Being scientifically literate doesn't necessarily mean having all the answers, it means knowing where to go and what to do to find those answers. You don't need to have the formula for kinetic energy memorized in order to find out how much work is done in a certain amount of time. But, you do need to know where to find the formula and how energy works in order to come up with a plausible answer.
Okay, how do we facilitate scientific thinking and STEM literacy in our children? First, we can try to keep science and math fun. This gets harder to do as they climb the learning ladder, but it's not impossible. Hands-on activities can cement concepts that are hard to grasp or that you feel need more explanation. Which way is more likely to make an imprint on your child - filling in Punnett squares or making a genotype of a mouse from candy?
Find ways to bring math and science together, point out times when you use math in science (such as in formulas) and let your child see how the two compliment each other. Technology is all around us, find ways to plug into it and keep your children current (the library offers classes, so does the Microsoft store and Apple, don't forget Internet safety and typing too.) The same goes for engineering, you don't need to build a skyscraper to understand that science and technology are in use when you construct things (try building stable shapes with marshmallows and toothpicks!)
As homeschoolers we have an advantage in that we can choose to do the science that our children like, not the grade level work they are supposed to be working on. If your child is interested in learning about volcanoes, run with it. If they see an app that shows the blood cells in their hands and they start to wonder what cells do, check out some books on biology. What if the What Your 3rd Grader Needs To Knowbook says that it's time to study phases of the moon and your child is more interested in bugs and star charts? Go with what is interesting them right now, you will have inquisitive, happy learners who want to ask questions and figure them out. Follow their bunny trails and you will see curious minds start to ponder and contemplate the information you have given them.
Your job as a homeschool teacher is to create an environment that fosters this type of inquiry based learning; go with what interests your child, learn along with them and have fun doing it, these things will give you the best results. Real STEM education should be focused on questions, sometimes without easy answers, on staying curious and seeing what happens. Being STEM literate doesn't mean that your child knows everything about math, science, technology and engineering, but that they are looking at the world around them and trying to piece together the puzzles that they see; to learn, to create, to wonder, to ruminate, to ask questions and try to find the solutions to them.
*This article was partly based on a Science lunch bag lecture given by Christine Meek of C THE World Academy. She offers homeschool science camps, science birthday parties and science lectures for homeschool teachers throughout the year, you can find more information here: http://www.ctheworldacademy.com/
According to the National Science Education Standards, students should develop the ability to refine and refocus broad and ill-defined questions.
Children come into the world with no “prior knowledge” or experience. They are a blank slate; a tabula rasa. They need to explore the world around them in various ways to figure things out. If you give a 10 month old boy an object, he will pick it up, look at it, move it around in his chubby little hands, and then put it in his mouth. He is using all his senses to figure out what the object is and how it works. Then that child learns to talk. So now this boy is still curious about everything and his newly acquired language now helps him to figure out the world around him. If you've ever met a 4 year old, you know that they ask questions incessantly. By the time he is 6, the number of questions starts to dwindle. This is partly due to the fact that he has more knowledge about the world around him and has a better ability to make connections to objects, events and ideas. But it is also partly because his mother is tired of answering all the questions and he's been told to stop asking so many of them.
Then that boy is sent off to school where he can learn more and experience more. More often than not, the child finds out that, according to standardized tests, there is always a right answer. Typically, that answer is “C.” When they do ask questions in class that don't have to do with “C,” the teacher often tells them not be distracted and redirects them to the task at hand. It turns out that, in school, students learn material so they can then be tested rather than learning for the love of curiosity.
After a while, they learn to stop asking questions and just memorize the information long enough to pass the test. After 13 years of learning the “right” information in school, they lose the ability to think critically, problem solve, and ask questions. By the time that child reaches adulthood, very few questions are asked on any given day.
Unfortunately, the “real world” doesn't always operate on “right” information. There are situations that come up where the answer isn't just right or wrong; true or false; “C” or “A.” The world isn't just black and white. We live in a world of gray and we need to help students tap into their instinctive curiosity again. At C THE World Academy, we help them remember how to investigate the world around them to find answers. I'm not suggesting we give a 10th grade Chemistry student an object to hold, move around and then put into their mouth the way they did when they were 10 months old, but we can guide students to observe their surroundings, learn how to ask good questions and then lead them to how to discover the answer on their own.
Why should you sign up to take classes with C THE World? Why is coming to us for a camp better than going somewhere else? Good questions! The real answer is that, at the middle school level, camp should be fun AND educational. Exposing kids this age to STEM topics creates a broader world view for them; it opens up opportunities and possibilities. At C THE World Academy, students are introduced to all relevant and real-world experiments and topics. We're pretty sure they've had some fun science classes/camps in the past as there are lots of options out there for the 3rd-5th grade ages. But now it's time for more, deeper, more "real" science.
Also, we also have better prices. STEM doesn't need to be expensive! There is an economics 101 view out there about Supply and Demand. If there is a high demand, then you can raise the price. We don't subscribe to that theory. We don't believe that you need to take out a second mortgage to introduce your child to high quality, exciting STEM activities. So we keep our overhead low which keeps our camp prices low. And we also offer a limited number of scholarships for those that still may not be able to afford the full price.
Here are the top 10 reasons you should C THE World:
10. Science in middle school should be fun (or should we say PHUN)
9. Toys based on physics and chemistry are WAY more PHUN.
8. Science gives us superpowers: like looking across the universe, seeing atoms, flying across the Earth or to the moon, moving mountains, and harnessing the energy of the sun.
7. You can play and make a mess and learn all at the same time!
6. People will think you're smart if you telll them you're learning robotics, electronics and rocketry.
5. Thinking outside the box gives you much more freedom.
4. If you learn chemistry, you'll get this joke: A guy orders a glass of H2O at a restaurant, drinks, gets up and leaves. His friend says he'd like H2O too, drinks, and dies.
3. Science is magic that works. -Kurt Vonnegut
2. If it's green or it wiggles, it's biology. If it stinks, it's chemistry. If it doesn't work, it's physics.
1. Science is EVERYWHERE! Come C THE World and find out!
WOW time flies! Your child who was once totally dependent on you is now entering the middle school years. She's looking for more autonomy, independence and learning more about who she is and who she wants to be when she “grows up.”
Those middle school years are a crucial time when children go through many significant developmental changes and form behaviors that affect their future. The conventional wisdom is that by the time children are in middle school ,they are ready to take care of themselves. Many parents think adult supervision is not as critical as it was when the children were younger. However, with their still-developing minds, children this age may not always make the best choices or make the best use of their free time.
School break camps can help a child in this 10-14 year age bracket bridge the need for autonomy and the need for a safe, adult-supervised environment...if done properly. There are things that need to be addressed for children this age:
At C THE World Academy, we are helping to build confident, creative, independent people. This is an important time in the life of your child. We respect and honor that you include us in their journey.
Last night, we at CTHEworld Academy got to go to the fund raising dinner for STEM High. Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin and current member of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology was the keynote speaker. He talked about needing science to be taught as an exciting topic; hands-on and taught by highly qualified teachers. He described how other countries have caught on to the idea and how we, the United States, are falling behind globally. We no longer have the global competitive edge we once had. We no longer have passion and excitement for the unknown. There is no Sputnik or Pearl Harbor or 9-11 to inspire us to be better, smarter, and one step ahead. We now only have standardized tests and those tests don't even cover science. And the teachers, who are severely under-paid and over-worked, are told that if their students don't pass those tests, they won't have a job. So why would a teacher who is trying to feed her family, risk her job and teach science when her whole quality of life depends on literacy and math? Why put the extra effort into getting the kids to think creatively when what she needs them to do is answer correctly?
I, Christine, had the opportunity to talk to Mr. Augustine regarding the classes I teach. I talked about getting the kids excited about science, technology and engineering - we blow things up, we instantly freeze things with liquid nitrogen, we program computer games and more. By the time a student leaves the class, they are excited to learn more, to do more, to be more. To instill a sense of passion in a child is to release the greatness they were born with. To not spoon-feed information, but rather get them to ask good, deep questions will help them learn to find their own answers and to prove to themselves what is true. "Because I, the teacher, said so" is NEVER a good answer. We need to find answers for ourselves. And by finding those answers, what we find more often are more questions.
After talking with me, Mr. Augustine said, "The class you teach sounds like exactly what is needed!" Coming from someone that has been in the industry for 60 years, that means a lot. But it means more to me when I see the "A-HA!" moments in a child's eyes when they have just proven their original hypothesis wrong and now know the truth. It means more to me when I have a parent tell me their child can't stop building a computer game (not playing...BUILDING/Creating/Programming!)
STEM education should not look like a student reading a science textbook and filling out a worksheet. It should be more than just making slime from a prescribed recipe. "Technology" should be deeper than learning how to write an essay in Microsoft Word for English class. It should be about instilling creative problems solving skills. To learn how to ask questions (you can't believe how hard this is). It should be about learning to collaborate with a team, not worrying about "cheating" off the person next to you.
Enter CTHEworld Academy...
_In general, the purpose of education is to prepare students for their future as productive and informed citizens. Students from kingergarten through 12th grade are given a general education that exposes them to many areas of knowledge, allowing them to make informed decisions and vote accordingly. Teaching Scientific Literacy gives a student the ability to draw conclusions based on evidence, not just what the media covers. Giving the "gift" of scientific literacy is a goal here at CTHEworld Academy!
PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) defines scientific literacy for individuals in this way:
CTHEworld Academy started out as a homeschooling adventure in our family. C=Christine, T=Taran, H=Hunter and E=Ed. We love to travel and know that learning happens OUTSIDE the classroom more often than inside. Just about everything we do is hands-on and fun...just about. The motto of our "Academy" is, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire" and we love to play with matches around here!
Ed is a rocket scientist at Lockheed Martin and loves all things science. Christine is a teacher at heart and by training and loves all the "a-ha" moments that come when doing labs and other hands-on activities. Together, over the past 19 years, we have learned to combine our talents and our passions and create amazing things.
We welcome you to our academy and our home. Please feel free to make suggestions, lead us to new experiments and share your experiences.
Christine has been inspiring the love of learning for more than 15 years. From preschool to college students, networking seminars and homeschooling, people say she is a dynamic teacher and speaker!