January 2017

January News

Transforming Math Class

When are we ever going to use this? If you are a math teacher, you probably hear this question all the time. Oregon Department of Education heard it too and funded six grants around the state to help teachers bring more real-world applications to math classrooms for students in middle and high school. GO-STEM received one of these grants last spring.

 “GO Real Life Math has opened my eyes to the importance of emphasizing conceptual fluency over fact fluency. Teaching kids to think and talk and share versus reciting is far more valuable than practicing 'monkey math'" says Sonia Ego, a math teacher at Umatilla High School. She adds "the lead speakers and presenters have been a huge help as far as implementing local resources and technology into my classroom.”

Teachers from Morrow, Umatilla and Union counties have been meeting since April last year to work collaboratively on lessons that engage students with real-life scenarios. Together, they have toured Barreto Manufacturing and heard from various local professionals about the ways they use math for their work in agriculture, wildlife biology, exercise science and occupational therapy.

Earlier this month, the group spent a day with an engaging math teaching consultant, RunningHorse Livingston of Mathematize. Emphasizing the importance of conceptual fluency in a world where our traditional system has focused on factual and procedural fluencies, RunningHorse modeled how to use math as a problem-solving tool AND how to bridge math applications to the procedural standards that students need to demonstrate their proficiency. Nancy Swarat of Umatilla High School said “My biggest take away from RunningHorse Livingston is to be intentional about connecting students’ methods to each other and then pointing out the connection to the formal math structures”.

“I went home excited and thinking about all the learning I got from RunningHorse and how I can start changing my students’ approach to better problem solving” said Chris Garrigues of Pilot Rock High School. What is problem-solving? In the workshop, it was defined as “what you do when you don’t know what to do”. If math can help students improve their problem-solving abilities, then the skills they learn in math class can be applied anywhere.

Bringing Outdoor Experiences to the Classroom

Even though it’s hard to imagine taking students outside this week, spring is just around the corner and there are many opportunities for place-based field work right outside your classroom door. Jane Goodall Environmental Middle School (JGEMS), a public charter school in Salem, is coming to eastern Oregon in June to offer a free two-day workshop sponsored by the Diack Ecology Education Program. They will be sharing their expertise and curriculum to provide teachers with the tools they need to lead students in field-based inquiries. 

The workshop will be held at Bar M Ranch in the hills outside Pendleton near the Umatilla National Forest. Presenters will provide hands-on opportunities in the field as well as time to develop curriculum tools and strategies with support for all grade levels. A special guest appearance by Matthew Campbell is planned for those interested in methods for collecting local lepidopterans!

JGEMS staff, Mike Weddle, offered an introductory workshop in La Grande last fall. Participants at this evening workshop were introduced to the programs and curriculum that will be shared in-depth at the workshop in June. Comments from teachers who attended the full-workshop include:  Time to work authentically with the equipment is invaluable. I appreciate getting to actually do the work the kids will do and use the tools they will use. I'm excited to apply for a grant. 

Participants in the workshop have the additional opportunity to apply for a $2,000 grant (or up to $6,000 if working collaboratively with two other teachers) from the Diack Ecology Education Program. These funds can be used to purchase classroom equipment and resources for field-based investigations. If you are interested in attending the workshop in June, contact Mike Weddle at mkweddle@comcast.net.

2015 ODOT Participants

Spring Career Fairs

Some people know from early childhood exactly what kind of work they want to do. Others travel a long and crooked path to reach a fulfilling career.  In either case, it’s hard to know what you want if you’ve never been exposed to the options.

Two opportunities are coming up this spring to help students in eastern Oregon see the possibilities!

On March 1st, the SAGE Center in Boardman will host its fourth annual Agriculture and Energy Job Fair. The event is open to the public and gives students a chance to visit with people from area food processors, utilities, farms, local government agencies, data centers and educational institutions about careers, education and job-seeking help. For more information about this and other educational opportunities available to students at the SAGE Center, call 541-481-7243.

On April 25th, Oregon Department of Transportation will host its Eastern Oregon Construction and Utilities Career Day. This event provides students with hands-on experiences and a chance to perform job-related skills in a controlled environment. Students and their teachers are provided with information about college and trade apprenticeship programs needed to enter high-wage utilities and construction-related careers. To find out how your students can participate in this event held at the ODOT Baker City Maintenance Station, contact Tom Strandberg at 541-963-1330.

If you are an employer or a STEM professional who is interested in sharing your work with local students, contact GO-STEM at 541-962-3012.