Annotated Bibliography on STEM Literature to Inspire Female Students by Dylan Fedell


In America, there is a gender gap disfavoring females progressing into STEM careers that begins in elementary school such that between 4th and 12th grade 11% of girls lose interest in science (Ellis et al, 2016). There is evidence that suggests teacher influence and encouragement over a prolonged period of time has a direct effect on a female students’ decision whether to pursue her interest in science and ultimately choose a STEM career (Faitar & Faitar, 2013).

Closing the gender gap in STEM-related careers is important to address because the United States is facing a considerably large deficit of workers in STEM-related fields. A report written by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) states that, “Economic projections point to a need for approximately 1 million more STEM professionals than the U.S. will produce at the current rate over the next decade if the country is to retain its historical preeminence in science and technology.” (Olson et al, 2012, p.i). It has also been projected in this report that through 2018 approximately 1 million STEM job openings will require engineers and computer specialists. It is concerning with these projections in mind that currently, women “represent roughly 50% of the general population but only 25% of the overall STEM workforce” (Ellis et al, 2016, p.2). Not only are women a viable and readily available workforce to fill this deficit, but many STEM-related jobs are high-paying and available. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics in their report on “STEM Occupations: Past, Present, And Future”, 93% of careers in STEM were above the national average of $48,320 with career choices requiring different levels of education ranging from 2-year degrees through graduate level degrees.

What is equally concerning as both the drop in student interest in science in elementary school and the job deficit, is there are 50% fewer freshmen women than men entering college pursuing a STEM degree. Although, comparable numbers of men and women (approximately 50%) who do pursue a STEM degree receive the degree, just under a third of those women enter a STEM-related career (Ellis et al, 2016). It is stated by PCAST that retaining just 10% of STEM majors in college would provide the majority of the qualified workforce that will be required (Olson et al, 2012). In short, if teachers could merely retain the 11% of interested female students through their elementary and secondary careers the workforce deficit would be avoided.

I chose this topic because I have the placement and qualifications in our society to contribute a small part in rectifying the larger issue. As a high school science teacher, and even more so, as a student focusing on the teaching and learning associated with science, I own certain aspects of this issue. As a son, husband, and father to a daughter I do not want to imagine or be a part of a society where females, particularly the females I care about, are excluded or dissuaded from any of their academic interests or career goals. In my experience, females contribute a perspective that is unique to males. It is and will be detrimental to our future wellbeing to not actively pursue the female perspective in STEM fields. I take any opportunity I can to actively encourage all of my students to pursue careers in areas that interest them, regardless of the challenges they may face to get there since lack of confidence is a primary factor in retaining students interested in STEM. Students often think that they are incapable of pursuing STEM or specifically, physics and engineering because they could never possibly be able to do the math required. I share with them my own story, that before I took a physics course or even thought about becoming a physics teacher I had failed math – multiple times. I used to tell myself in high school and college that I wasn’t good at math and proceeded to enable myself to fail at it. Even in science classes, which I knew I loved, I was unsuccessful until one day during a college chemistry lecture about the relationship of water temperature and dissolved oxygen that inspired me to pursue a career in chemistry education. It was really the connection I made to real life (fishing) that had inspired me – I had surmised that trout died in the shallow creek behind my house in the summertime was because they ran out of oxygen in the warm water! Suddenly teaching and learning chemistry became the number one priority, and to pursue my love of chemistry I would need to face my math-demon. Through learning chemistry, and lots of hard work, I became quite good if not highly proficient in math. I owe a small part to the initial inspiration and the rest to my mentors, both male, and female (mostly female), that had encouraged me to keep going and pursue my interests even if I failed along the way. I wouldn’t have had the motivation to become a science teacher, let alone a chemistry and physics teacher if I didn’t have that support group.


Book List:

1. Rosenthal, A. K., Hatam, H., & Rosenthal, P. (2018). Dear girl. New York, NY: Harper Collins Children’s Books.

Genre: Picture Book   Age Range: 4-8

This book is written as a letter from a parent. In the letter, the daughter is given advice on how to follow their desires and shed criticisms to have a fulfilling life. Dear Girl is a high-quality text due to its authenticity and writing style. The letter is written by Amy Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, a mother-daughter team, which makes it feel real – like it was written by your own mother. It has a common-sense writing style that is easy to read and internalize. As a parent, I would recommend reading this book to your daughter, even at a young age. The letter helps parents say things to their children that they don’t always get a chance to say or can’t find the words for. As a teacher, I could see students not just reading this text individually, but as a literature group.

2. Becker, H., & Phumiruk, T. (2018). Counting on Katherine: how Katherine Johnson saved Apollo 13. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Company

Genre: Picture Book/Biography         Age Range: 5-9

This book retells Katherine Johnson’s life, Johnson is an African-American physicist and mathematician who worked for NASA during the first lunar missions, including Apollo 13. Johnson’s notoriety came as one of the leading mathematicians in orbital trajectories that helped bring home the astronauts on 13’s failed mission to the Moon’s surface. This book is high quality do to the illustrations and the message behind the biography. The illustrations are full-page and capture the reader’s attention as they too help tell the story. The primary message in this book is overcoming sexism, but also to exhibit the pervasiveness of segregation in that time period and is supplemented by the illustrations. As a teacher, I would use this text as a case study in history. The civil rights movement is in full swing as well as deep-seated sexism for the duration of this story which serves as an inspiration to girls who are struggling against those very same issues today. As a parent, I would use this story to help inspire young girls to follow their dreams whether or not they are difficult or unconventional.

3. Favilli, E., & Cavallo, F. (2017). Good night stories for rebel girls. London: Particular Books.

Genre: Nonfiction       Age Range: 6+

This book is a series of single-page stories about accomplished women from around the world. The stories all begin with, “Once upon a time…” and include a wide variety of cultures, accomplishments, and walks of life. This book is high-quality because of its originality and multicultural perspectives. Biographies can sometimes seem dull but since each story is only one page long there is only enough room to read about the highlight of each woman’s accomplishments which keeps it interesting. Since these women are chosen from around the world, a welcomed multicultural perspective is included. As a parent, I want to read this to my daughter as soon as she will listen. Parents with children (not just daughters) can read these stories as a nightly routine and help inspire the girls and lend perspective to the boys. Teachers may read these stories to very young children as an introduction to a unit in school or just for fun.

4. Beaty, A., & Roberts, D. (2016). Ada Twist, scientist. New York, NY: Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Genre: Picture Book               Age Range: 4-9

This book follows a young girl, Ada Marie Twist, from infancy to second grade as she explores the world around her. The story follows Ada as she investigates the source of a stinky smell and includes all of the wonderful questions that a young person could ask and how her parents react to them. This book is high-quality because of its originality, illustrations, and readability. The illustrations are highly detailed, colorful and add another dimension to the reader’s experience. The rhyming scheme is perfectly suitable for a read aloud to a young audience from ages 3-7.  Parents and teachers can utilize this work as a call for inspiration in their young kids and students. Teachers can incorporate this text into the beginning of their science unit as a way to explain their expectations to their students. Parents may want to utilize this text as a way to structure and explore their own child’s curiosity.

5. Beaty, A., & Roberts, D. (2013). Rosie Revere, engineer. New York: Abrams Books for Young Readers.

Genre: Picture Book               Age Range: 4-9

This book follows a young girl, Rosie Revere, during a visit from her great-great-aunt Rose, based loosely on Rosie the Riveter, who has always wanted to fly. Rosie, who has a passion for designing and building her inventions out of scraps, builds a flying machine for her great-great-aunt. This book is high-quality because of its message and its illustrations.  The message of this book is to persevere – even through failure and the ridicule. The illustrations as with Ada Twist are top-notch and out of sheer necessity to depict these great machines that Rosie builds rather than for adding dimension as in Ada Twist. Parents and teachers looking to inspire their young child to create and build look no further. We all have a situation occur in our lives where we question the validity of our passions – for times when a child questions their abilities I would read them this book. Teachers can use this book in their STEM classroom to inspire young girls to persist in whatever interests them and to break the stereotype that “girls don’t build.”

6. Scieszka, J., & Smith, L. (1995). Math curse. New York, NY: Viking.

Genre: Humor             Age Range: 4-9

This book is about a math student who has been “cursed” to think of everything she encounters one day as a math problem – even English and social studies class! The story goes into detail about each encounter and the different math principles at work which at first seem impossible but in the end, become easy and completely doable. This is a high-quality text because of its wide application, originality, and illustrations. As a physics teacher, I am happy that someone has finally written about what my brain goes through on a daily basis. In that light, I found that this book is worth reading at any age students encounter math. The topics and illustrations were both highly original and creative such that they worked together to maintaining readability even though the book is written in test question format. As a teacher, I am considering using this text as an example of “scientific thinking” for students. As mentioned earlier, as a science teacher, my brain has been rewired to ask questions and be curious about my world and although it seems overwhelming and difficult at first, it’s really a piece of cake! Teachers of younger students might use only one page or one situation from this book to inspire student thinking about a certain topic such as unit conversions. Parents can use this book with its humor to help foster mathematical thinking in their children.

7. Clinton, C., & Boiger, A. (2017). She persisted: 13 American women who changed the world. New York, NY: Philomel Books.

Genre: Picture Book   Age Range: 5-9

This book is a series of short stories retelling the accomplishments of thirteen notable American women who exhibited perseverance. The collection includes a variety of accomplishments from sports to government, and even dance! This is a high-quality book because of its theme and illustrations. The theme of persistence resonates through every page in this book with each woman given a page for a story where, “she persisted,” and another page for a famous quote. The illustrations help to quickly set the scene from page to page and story to story. A teacher could use this book as a brief overview of the accomplishments of some of America’s iconic women. This overview could be used as a list of famous women that students can choose from to do a more detailed biographical. A parent could choose this book as a way of introducing these women’s stories to their children.

8. Stine, M. (2014). Who was Marie Curie? New York, NY: Penguin Workshop.

Genre: Biography       Age Range: 8-12

This book is a biography of Marie Curie, one of the first women scientists. The biography outlines her discoveries, her life, and her education while making her way to be the first woman to receive a Nobel Prize and the only person to win in two areas of science. This book is high-quality because of its information and accessibility. Sometimes a biography can be bland and uneventful, but utilizing Curie’s vast number of accomplishments and personal life, the reader can place themselves as an observer of her life. The sequence and structure in which this book is written allow the reader to understand the whole story by incorporating background information when it’s needed. Marie Curie’s life is fairly exciting and inspirational – I had to read this book in one sitting because I wanted to know what would happen next. As a teacher, I would love for students to experience the inspirational accomplishments of Curie. The book and Curie’s life exhibits a theme of perseverance – Marie was often the first women to surpass many of the obstacles that other women had faced in the past. As a parent or teacher, I would recommend this book to any child that needs the inspiration to keep moving forward.

9. Wallmark, L., & Wu, K. (2017). Grace Hopper: Queen of computer code. New York: Sterling Children’s Books.

Genre: Biography       Age Range: 8-12

Grace Hopper made her career in the Navy as a computer programmer. This book outlines her involvement in computer programming and the Navy from her inception in 1943 until her retirement in 1986. Her accomplishments which are outlined in this book are truly incredible, especially for those who were not aware that computers have been in existence for her entire career. This book is high-quality because it highlights not only the outstanding career of this woman but her thoughts and inspirational attitude. The illustrations in the book help to set the scene of a woman who was dedicated to her work, the advancement of computer science programming, and the security of her country. As a parent, I would buy this for my daughter because it’s an inspirational story in a subject area that sees extremely low participation from females in STEM fields. As a teacher, using this biography as an introduction to the history of coding and what it’s all about would help to frame computer science programmers in a livelier and more realistic setting – since when I talk to my students the stereotype of a middle-aged male sitting in his basement wearing glasses staring at a computer screen prevails.

10. Kay, K., Shipman, C., Riley, J., & Lawson, N. (2018). The confidence code for girls: Taking risks, messing up, & becoming your amazingly imperfect, totally powerful self. New York, NY: Harper.

Genre: Advice            Age Range: 9-13

This book utilizes comics, quizzes, quotes, vignettes, and more to mentor anyone (not just girls) into deconstructing negative thinking and replacing it with confidence. Through eleven chapters, the reader takes various perspectives of confidence on a psychological, social, and philosophical level. This book is high-quality because of its accessibility to readers and its central theme: confidence. The authors do a fantastic job of incorporating authentic responses to questions posed and practical ways for girls to begin restructuring their thoughts in a more positive way. The authors list pages of their resources if anyone, the parent or young girl, would like to learn more. Because this book is so accessible, it is easy to utilize on a chapter by chapter basis. A parent/teacher may observe their child/student struggling in one of the areas highlighted in this book and may offer the child some light reading to help them sort through their issue. From a teacher’s perspective, students are often stressed over their grades due to parent and self-expectations, which this book has a chapter on. If I observe a student who is stressing about their grades it would help to have this book as a reference when speaking to them.

11. Reichs, K. (2012). Virals. New York, NY: Penguin Young Readers Group.

Genre: Science Fiction           Age Range: 9+

This books main character is related to the TV show, “Bones,” character Temperance Brenner who is on the show a forensic anthropologist. This series is about her great-niece, Tory Brennan, and her friends as they solve science-based mysteries. This book is high-quality because of its realistic science content, written by Kathy Reichs, who is herself a forensic anthropologist. The storyline is relatable to female students in middle and high school so much that upon mentioning this to one of my female students they mentioned how much they loved the series. This book could be used by teachers to inspire students with different ideas in science – after all, science fiction literature fuels our societies desire to develop our knowledge and technology. A parent might recommend this series to a girl who doesn’t quite love to read but is interested in science or forensics.

12. Hilton, M. (2015). Full Cicada Moon. New York, NY: Dial Books for Young Readers.

Genre: Poetry/Historical Novel          Age Range: 9+

A young girl of mixed race tells the story of her moving to a predominately white town in Vermont in the 1960s who wants to be an astronaut. The book addresses the female perspective and female stereotype shift during the late 1960s and is the winner of the 2015-16 APALA Literature Award in Children’s books. A social studies teacher could utilize this book in a unit on the 1960s, especially the space race. As a science teacher, I would use this book in conjunction with a biography on Sally Ride or other female astronauts to help paint a picture of the struggle to be a female desiring to be something different.

13. Acevedo, S. (2018). Path to the stars: My journey from Girl Scout to rocket scientist. Boston: Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Genre: Autobiography            Age Range: 10+

This book is the authors telling of her life from growing up in New Mexico to becoming a scientist if NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The author describes her life from a Latina female growing up in the 1960s. This book is high-quality because of the setting and perspective of the author’s story. The 1960s seems to have been a turning point in how the Nation stereotyped females – why would females want to do anything but raise a family? The author had dreams in spite of the stereotype and eventually went to college, became a scientist, and is now CEO of the Girl Scouts. As a teacher, I would use this as a tool for delivering inspiration to my female students. It tells the story of a woman who could not have predicted where she would eventually land in life. It is relatable to my students because they are often stressed with trying to pick the one thing they will do the rest of their lives – which is often not reality. As a parent, I would give this to my daughter to read for the same reasons I would recommend it as a teacher to my female students.

14. Gonzales, A., & Houser, S. (2017). Girl code: Gaming, going viral, and getting it done. New York, NY: Harper, a division of HarperCollins.

Genre: Autobiography            Age Range: 12+

This book is the autobiography of two girls (now women) who created a video game together and became famous. The story is an inside look into the life of two female coders who are now part of companies that design and create video games. This book is a Junior Library Guild selection and a Children’s Book Council Best STEM Trade Book for Students K-12. The book is high-quality because it tells the story of two female-role models in a field of STEM which has a notoriously low turn-out of female interest. I would recommend this book to any of my female students who are interested in coding or science in general – primarily the AP computer science and computer science classes in high school. As a parent, I would encourage my daughter to read this story in middle and high school. Although, I wouldn’t hesitate to read this to a younger audience in small portions.

15. Cavallaro, B. (2016). A study in Charlotte: A Charlotte Holmes novel. New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Genre: Mystery           Age Range: 14+

This is a mystery series involving the descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, fictional characters from the world-famous mystery books involving early forensics by Arthur Conan Doyle. This is the story and adventures of Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson while attending a boarding school in Connecticut. This book is high-quality because of its themes and originality. Although the themes of this book lend themselves to an older audience, it portrays young women with minds of their own and the confidence to solve a murder mystery on their own. As a teacher I would recommend this book to a student I know can handle the darker themes brought up in this novel but might benefit from reading a book based upon female characters. As a parent, I would utilize this book as a way to encourage my daughter to read more while maintaining a theme of scientific reasoning.

16. Gay, R., & Coates, T. (2017). Black Panther: World of Wakanda. New York, NY: MARVEL WORLDWIDE.

Genre: Graphic Novel             Age Range: 9+

This book continues the story of the Black Panther comic series in a female perspective as one of the women recruited for the “secret service” of Wakanda, a fictional city. The main character is followed in a love story while still trying to do her duty as a protector of the city. This book is high-quality because of its themes. The powerful females who protect this highly evolved society is a refreshing perspective – not only in comics but in fictional stories in general. The Black Panther series is also a high-quality book that focuses on an African society that is the most technologically advanced in the world; a refreshing narrative on what Africa could be. As a teacher, I would offer this series to female students who need a little inspiration but are primarily dreamers. I think this book is appropriate to dreamers because like all sci-fi, a little bit of imagination is what helps to advance our thinking of what could be a reality. As a parent, I would suggest this for children who may enjoy reading graphic novels, or who enjoy reading regular books and want to branch out.

17. Freudenberger, N. (2019). Lost and wanted. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Genre: Novel              Age Range: 16+

This book is a novel about Helen Clapp, a theoretical physicist who by nature is convinced only by facts and swayed only by trends in data. Her science-mind is shaken when she gets a call from her dead friend whom she shared intimate aspects of her life during college. This is her journey in dealing with her friend’s death and subsequent phone call – spiritually, emotionally, and scientifically. This book is high-quality because it is original, provides a female physicist role-model, and has young adult themes. The themes in this novel such as coping, advancing a career, attending college are those that are most important for young females who haven’t yet experienced those things, to read about. As a teacher, I would recommend this to my female students who are anticipating entering college – especially those interested in majoring in science. As a parent, I would probably wait until my child is in high school before recommending this book. Even though I feel this book would be appropriate for a female student who has continued onto their graduate studies.

18. McKellar, D. (2011). Hot X: Algebra exposed. New York, NY: Plume.

Genre: Education/Math                      Age Range: 13-15

This book is part of a series of books that are educational, fun, and full of advice about how to keep a girl’s confidence high even up against math – this time algebra. The author shares her experiences as an actress and her thoughts and feelings towards math as she grew into an academic, she also takes time to addresses the stereotypes in math. This book is high-quality because the author is passionate and relatable to young adults. The author shares her personal experience with math and her second career as an academic. She easily relates to the reader with her anecdotes and thoughts about school life for a teenager, and the advice she offers from experience. As a physics (& math) teacher, I would keep this book on hand at all times. In math class, this could even be part of an effort to incorporate literacy into the curriculum. In physics and chemistry, it may be helpful to keep at least one copy on hand to share with students who are struggling with math –this could turn their perception of math around!

Teacher’s Guide:

Who Was Marie Curie? by Megan Stine

Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark

Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist by Sylvia Acevedo

Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done by Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton

These books would be used in a social studies unit looking into topics such as woman’s suffrage, sexism, racism, and comparing general stereotypes of women throughout the last century of American history. Starting with nonfiction, “Who Was Marie Curie,” through to “Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done” I would separate students into groups by assigning excerpts from each book that have a prominent theme. I would ask students to pick out the themes of each excerpt associated with each woman’s struggles beginning in the early 1900s up to the present day. I would ask each group to present summaries of their excerpt and the themes they had identified. A central document will be utilized as a way for the entire class to look at each other’s summaries and findings. Individually, students would be asked to reflect on the struggles of each woman and how they found success and how did those successes open the door for others to follow while breaking the stereotypes of their time. Lastly, I would have students read excerpts from “Full Cicada Moon,” a fictional story, and compare the accuracy of the struggles and stereotypes in the story versus historical reality – are stereotypes and how women are treated in the fictional story accurate to the time period or do some present themselves as more modern or antiquated?


Final Makes

Designing a Connected Learning Project in High School Physics

ED677: Final Makes

Dylan Fedell


For my Final Makes I am designing a culminating activity for my optics unit in physics. In optics we cover the following topics:

This project is a work in progress, but I wanted to outline my thinking in this project and how it will support connected learning and equity in my classroom, in addition to my own thinking, learning, and practice.

Personally, one of the greatest hurdles to implementing connected learning practices in the classroom is how intangible its ideas still are for many educators. If I had not taken three graduate courses on the subject I would still be lost…actually if I had stopped at two courses I would still be lost. I think it’s because existing lessons may already contain aspects of connected learning, just not labeled as such; or existing lessons with minimal connected learning practices can be modified to incorporate a few of these practices or a lot; it’s your choice! What it really comes down to is what questions do you ask yourself when reflecting and developing a lesson. So, I decided that if I used the themes of our studies in ED677 to devise reflective questions, I could develop a connected learning dogma to guide my practice. Below are the questions that I devised and asked myself:

  • How is the activity openly-networked or allow students to engage in shared purpose?
  • How is the activity production-centered (circulation & visibility of artifacts; access to production tools; collective purpose; just-in-time instruction; value & common purpose (racing at end…build a car))?
  • In what ways does the activity include student interest in academic, civic, community, or career areas?
  • How is the activity a collaboration of other contents, other schools or learning settings?
  • In what ways am I promoting inquiry to build knowledge?
  • In what ways am I letting go of control?
  • In what ways am I supporting current events and fostering civic participation?
  • In what ways am I showing that I care enough that everyone can share their whole selves?


At the beginning of the school year one of my colleagues in the art department let me borrow a book titled, Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light. Quite honestly, I had not anticipated using this book in my classroom or there being a strong connection between the two topics, but I had wanted to scan its nearly 500 pages out of pure interest. Before scanning, I was aware that physics tools were being used to preserve, restore, and even “look” underneath existing paintings at previously undiscovered artwork or technique (since canvas’ were typically reused, older artwork was simply painted over).

A little while later, in between semesters, I was scanning the book and began to read. The chapter on light was fascinating! One of the topics I found really interesting was how early renaissance artists learned to depict light and how artists use of light spurred scientific thinking and reasoning in order to draw the interaction of light and objects accurately (shadowing). My idea for a hook and culminating task would be as if the student were contracted to paint a picture for some royal figure. In order to do so they would have to learn how light travels and interacts with different objects and pigments and then actually draw it; while learning some of the tricks of the trade of how artists depict light. I wrote this down where I log my ideas for projects and while looking for inspiration for this final make, I had a connected learning epiphany, and decided to revisit this idea!


I decided when I had this epiphany to meet with AT, the art teacher who had lent me the book. AT liked the idea of collaboration between our two departments and shared that he had always wanted to design a project that allowed students to create their own pigments. He also detailed a history of artists using light which was both fascinating and unbeknownst to me at that time. AT mentioned one landscape artist who was particularly famous for his drawings precision; it is suspected that he used a pinhole camera to magnify and project an image onto a canvas for tracing; this before the time of lenses.

After meeting with AT, I began thinking about how we could synthesize our ideas into something meaningful. The science behind these projects fits directly into the physics curriculum, but I wanted to make this project more than just a meshing of contents. So, I began with several components I felt embodied a connected classroom, the project(s) needed to, a) contribute to a positive educational atmosphere; b) exhibit skills and learning done in the classroom; and c) allow students to contribute in different ways that allow them to share/explore areas of skill/interest.

Below is a progression of my thinking as I began answering the questions I had developed (as stated above):

With shared-purpose in mind, I began to think of a mural, display, or kinetic sculpture that students of any skill level could contribute to. For convenience I will refer to murals, displays, and kinetic sculptures simply as displays. I thought of these displays because they can be large in scale, and contribute to a positive atmosphere in our school community. Shared purpose to me feels democratic in a sense because students need to identify what aspects of the content or ideas for the project are important to them as a group. Since the goal would be to include specific concepts or phenomena unique to light, students would need to collectively brainstorm and decide which optics content would be incorporated into the project.

As I focused on openly-networking this project I imagined a whole school voting on the design and inclusion of different works depicted on the display. I would also like to include staff and administration in deciding the location of the project. For the purpose of continuing this project in future semesters I am imagining a display that can be moved, and taken down when convenient.

Next, I wanted to incorporate meaning into the project. In what ways is this project meaningful to my students and meaningful to others? I began to think about civics, community, and career and in what ways I could incorporate skills needed in these areas into this project. The first thing I thought of was students devising a proposal for the display. The proposal could take the form of a written letter, a film, or a presentation to administration outlining the project and its meaning. Upon feedback and approval students could write a funding request (apply for a “grant”) for supplies which most likely would come out of the science department, art department, or principals budget.

At this point I asked myself, why would the school spend money on this project? How does this progress or aid learning (academics)? I thought about this mural becoming an interactive learning display, where students could appreciate the artistic qualities of the piece but also the learning that is incorporated in it. Students could manipulate the display in many ways, for example, moving a light source to cast shadows of different shapes onto the display, or looking through a polarized lens to see a piece of art. Could we display our mural in a community art show?

In supporting a collaborative environment, I began to think about ways my students could interact and utilize the resources that exist around them. Could the English department help students write their proposal? Could the library provide a platform for student research? I also thought about how the student body would be incorporated, after all, their votes would be guiding the message of the display. I am wondering if a group of students could document the process and share progress over social media or other venues. They could even collaborate with our districts Director of Community Relations and Development who runs our social media accounts.

Developing a role for current events and civics in this project was at first a stretch. But, I came to realize that art is often a reflection of current events in the artist’s life. I imagine a display with a central theme based on current events or promoting awareness that incorporates physical pieces of the display to emphasize the meaning of the display. For example, students could use lenses to magnify pictures or facts of importance.

Overall, I feel the main purpose of this project is for students to learn and contribute. I imagine that this project would work a lot like the school play, everyone contributes to the production in different ways, but collectively. Some students with an interest or skill set will build the set for the mural or construct the displays; some will write the proposal and rationale; other students will draw; while some students promote and document. I feel this model allows students to explore their interests and learn new things, but also provide a learning experience for other students with their individual skill set, allowing students to share their full selves.

Summary & Next Steps:

How is the activity openly-networked or allow students to engage in shared purpose?

  • Design and build display exhibiting optics; an awareness topic important to students is the theme.
  • Survey the school to choose parts of the display or to choose theme.

How is the activity production-centered?

  • Design and create a display for the school.
  • Design and create an academically-oriented interactive display – using light to create art.

In what ways does the activity include student interest in academic, civic, community, or career areas?

  • Students write/film/present a proposal for the display, seeking approval and to motivate student body to participate; apply for funding of supplies.
  • Display in a community art show or (depending upon theme) a local awareness event.

How is the activity a collaboration of other contents, other schools or learning settings?

  • Collaboration with the art department (how artists use light, designing/mixing pigments).
  • Collaboration with the English department (drafting proposal).
  • Collaboration with Library (as a research platform).
  • Students will document and update progress in real time through technology (social media, etc.)
  • Collaborate with Director of Outreach for building social media presence.

In what ways am I promoting inquiry to build knowledge?

  • Students will research a theme of their collective choosing.
  • This will be an educational display; students require a deep knowledge of optics to build display.

In what ways am I letting go of control?

  • The student body will choose the theme (message) of the display.
  • Students are tasked with all aspects of this project from production to promotion.

In what ways am I supporting current events and fostering civic participation?

  • Students choose a central theme based on current events or promoting awareness.
  • Display or present in a community art show or (depending upon theme) a local awareness event.

In what ways am I showing that I care enough that everyone can share their whole selves?

  • Students will have different jobs based upon their interests and skills; designing, constructing, drawing, writing proposal and rationale, presenting display, promoting, documenting.

Next steps include receiving and reflecting on feedback from class. Although, I may not have a chance to implement this project before the end of the year, I plan to incorporate this project into my curriculum next time I teach this course. Nothing works out the kinks (so to speak) as when thirty or more students work through its entirety! Overall, I am very excited about this project, I have been looking for an opportunity to include a project rooted in connected learning practices into my curriculum.


Connected Yoga

What poses are central to connected learning…what makes it different from what I am doing or have done in the past…which poses do I wobble between transitions and what poses do I flow between?

I like to think that I’ve become fluent in at least three of the six poses in connected learning. Poses I’m fluent in: academic-orientation, interest, and production; poses I haven’t practiced enough include: peer-support, shared purpose, and open network.

I feel like I have spent most of my (short) career developing an academically oriented classroom. After all, this is what administrators seemed to be focused on. It’s possible, and a fear of mine, to have a great looking lesson that has no substance. Basically, a lab that students play instead of observe and reflect.

From an academically oriented pose I wobbled striving to reach interest-driven curriculum. In conventional learning there are only certain points in the curriculum where interest could drive student learning. To assume this pose I am forced to redesign curriculum to be more interest driven by design, not necessarily a la carte. I wobbled for the past 2 years while designing curriculum that reflects a more organic approach to learning. I feel as though I can flow between the two, but must practice often.

I started to become more production centered when I began renovating my house. I realized after a couple years of working with my father-in-law that mentoring and coaching to build something was a special type of learning that the classroom seemed to lack. So I began each of the past two years with an ambition to structure this type of learning into my classroom. Why can’t we wire a room for a house in the classroom? Why can’t students get this one-on-one education that I was getting in my spare time? I can make this pose in my own life, but am still wobbling trying to implement this aspect of learning in my classroom.

I have only recently been exposed to utilizing networks in the classroom so this pose is not quite developed. I am looking to incorporate this aspect into my curriculum but am not sure what this pose would look like in my classroom yet.

I have been wobbling from academically-oriented to peer-supported by implementing in my classroom. By allowing students to interact with the same pieces of information they are inherently supporting each other’s work.

I have slowly been implementing shared purpose into the classroom. I have been trying to design curriculum that provides an opportunity for this interaction. Bringing in issues of hearing loss, lightning safety brings a “for public good” aspect that I interpret as shared purpose.

Still practicing poses, still wobbling, and very occasionally flowing!!!

Do to Learn

As I am finally developing a focused idea of what “making” is and what a “makerspace” involves I am trying to see where makers fit in. I make things, all the time, whether I actively pursue the act of making or seize an opportunity out of pure necessity. I enjoy the challenge of building things that I want and are too expensive to buy prebuilt. I also enjoy learning new skills, acquiring new tools, and using the things that I build for a purpose.

In my experience, I typically stay away from tinkerers, makers, fabricators, or anyone who is uber excited to show off their “skills”. Although I consider myself equally skilled and knowledgeable I feel these groups of people are, in general, elitists; but that’s not totally fair, I’ve known plenty from these groups that are genuinely excited to share what they know.

My app is designed to connect people to projects they’re interested in and want to contribute in some way. The app would log your participation in projects and rank your involvements; people with the most involvements would eventually act as mentors with a particular set of skills. This would be like a free market approach to more knowledgeable others.

Peers would be able to connect, brainstorm and either commit to projects or act observers who could help steer multiple projects towards completion.

This could also be a place where nonprofits can place projects. Contributors would actively search for projects that have meaning to them.

This app would allow students to contribute to projects that have meaning to them. Student involvement would satisfy all the values of connected learning save being academically oriented.

5 Finds for Inspiration

  1. STEM Guitar. This is a program was developed by college professors to incorporate STEM into high school and undergraduate curriculum. This site is particularly inspiring because they are holding workshops, have a large network of teachers that have been trained and a) I wanted to build my own guitar this year; and b) I am already incorporating all of the concepts of  pickup design, amplification, and speakers into my Physics II curriculum! A true win, win, win.
  2. The Physics Classroom. This site is inspiring because it is such a detailed and expansive resource! A teacher in California developed this website to help students of physics learn content, but it has turned into a place to gather curriculum ideas, utilize simulations, and formatively assess students knowledge. This site was developed by a seriously dedicated, experienced, and knowledgeable physics educator…the site even includes NGSS and STEM connections!
  3. The Engines of Our Ingenuity. This is a radio program created and developed by John Leinhard out of Houston. John is a professor of Mechanical Engineering. This is new source for me so I haven’t been able to check it out as much I would like but there are many, many episodes to read the scripts for. There are amazing segments done on engineering topics and technology that help bridge the gap between engineering, a topic which many people ignore, and current innovation.
  4. Teach Engineering. This website is full of free STEM curriculum designed by K-12 teachers, and professors. This is an inspiring site because many of the ideas I feel like I fought hard to develop were already a) thought of; and b) tested in the classroom and refined. This site inspires me to do bigger and better things than just I can think of on my own.
  5. Smarter Everyday. The owner of this YouTube channel is an extraordinary character. Destin is an engineer by trade but creates videos explaining and exploring everyday phenomena. I use this channel often in my classroom because he makes students want to explore topics in science!

Find: Active vs. Passive Tech


I have been doing a lot of reading involving the next unit of study in my Physics II class on electricity/magnetism and I plan on using the electric guitar as topic study during this unit. I have found some amazing resources along the way that incorporate both active and passive uses of technology.

  1. The Seymour-Duncan Guitar Wiring Diploma blog. Speaking of active and passive technologies, there are also active and passive electric guitar pickups! A passive pickup simply transmits the faint fluctuations in voltage to an external amplifier and active pickup amplifies the signal and sends it to a speaker. Anyway, I wanted to include this blog because although it could be utilized as a passive use I think how-to-guides are actually quite active. For example, the blogger encourages his readers to ask questions and when they do he responds which I would classify as “interaction with experts” and since readers can reply to others on the blog I would also consider this “peer collaboration”.
  2. Scratch and Go!. The programs and devices from Vernier which makes laboratory probeware joined forces with Scratch coding from MIT. Scratch is a program designed by MIT that allows students to make games, stories, and other interactives while learning to code. Scratch integrated Vernier into its coding operations by, for example, having a person on the Scratch software move forward when the temperature reading of the probe increased.
  3. Journey North – by Annenberg Learner. The Journey North project is an amazing online collaboration that utilizes active technologies. Students use data they collect from observation in their region and contribute that information online. This can range from the migration of different species, rate of change in daylight hours, or when different plants bloom in the spring. This collective information is available for all to use and even gets placed on an interactive map with all contributors information…you can even contact specific contributors!

The most rewarding aspect of utilizing these technologies is how they a) connect individual learners with experts in their field; b) connect software and hardware applications; and c) connect peers from across the globe with a shared purpose. By interacting with hardware and software applications it allows students to venture into a topic that is regularly mystifying for them and most of society; coding. By using active technologies to learn to code, students are developing a mindset focused on turning thoughts into action. While reading this article, I was struck by the idea that students are still not prepared to find reliable information online; yet, I know this to be true. I have observed students and adults alike find and use information that was unreliable from the internet that they believed to be true. I am not sure if students need to be necessarily taught how to find reliable sources of info online besides being shown that sites with .gov, .edu, .org, etc. are considered reliable. I think that we need to push critical thinking as a pathway to selecting reliable sources. All of these resources engage students in college, career, and community readiness by engaging them in different learning communities. Students may use their learning in one community to contribute to another, unrelated aspect (community) of their lives.

I also really like how each of these resources provides both something interest-driven/curiosity-driven and academic. I was happy to read in Teaching in the Connected Learning Classroom that a line was drawn between using students cultural phenomena exploited for academic purposes because it breeds resentment. I was never one of those teachers that would hop on band-wagons of student interest as I always thought it was disingenuous to the student. For example, obviously I am not interested nor do I see any academic aspect to fidget spinners…so why on Earth would I try to use them in the classroom? Some might argue that’s “knowing your audience” but I think it may be seen as “trying too hard”.

Game, Set, Match.

When I worked in an alternative school we played games a lot. They just calmed everyone down and gave the room a better vibe. Occasionally, we also used them to reinforce concepts learned in class, here are some of the games we used to play and some I took with me.

  1. Periodic table battleship…woo, woo! So I wasn’t the first one to think of this but I like to think I made it more educational and relevant to what we see here. Most teachers use the atomic numbers, the document I posted uses rows and number of valence electrons like row 2, 8 valence electrons. We used the outer shell electron configuration to dial in our shots fired so rather than just saying “10” for neon, they would have to say 2s2, 2p6 and it was a relatively fun way to get students speaking the language.
  2. Although this next game is not educational it was a good moral booster on those tough days when everyone just wanted to go home. It’s called Irish Fairytale and the guy in my Play to Learn, Learn to Play post  taught me this, too. That is not the real name or else Google would have definitely found it, but it goes like this. With a group, two people leave the room. They only know that the group is creating a story and they have to ask questions when they’re allowed back in the room to guess the story. The group just comes up with a title and the two questioners end up creating the story asking yes or no questions. They end up fabricating this elaborate tale from the group answering their questions in no, no, no, yes order. Eventually, they ask questions that contradict their story and they know somethings up. We have them ask the same question 4 times so they see the pattern of answers. AMAZING GAME…but you can only play once with one whole group.
  3. I was reading about Katie’s marble game which sounds a lot like one of the STEM activities we would do to discuss pollinators (bees, etc.)! Students needed to pick up marbles in Katie’s version, but in the STEM version we have to transfer pollen from one area to another. Very cool!
  4. In physics, we use a lot of the PHET simulations in our coursework. Some of these simulations simply provide a sort of virtual lab but others are games. I am a fan of Electric Field Hockey where students use like and opposite charges to propel and attract a particle it the right direction to score a goal. If you play you might not stop.
  5. The last game I would like to highlight is Turd the Target and Turd the Target II located on The Physics Classroom. At first my students think I am joking, but no, you are actually doing physics calculations in order to land a “bird’s” poop in a container as it flies. They all think it’s so strange when they first play but talking to students years later it’s one of those things they remember from my class (good thing??).