The Sum of All Summers
What a summer it has been!
We had workshops all summer long, all over North Carolina, starting right in our own learning spaces at Shodor, to the Sigma Xi headquarters in RTP, in local summer programs across the Durham area, at the Wade Edwards Learning Lab in Raleigh, and for students from Carteret Schools on the coast. Hundreds of students spent their summer learning the excitement of computational models and visualization, as our Computing MATTERS project rolled out across the state (for more information about this NSF-funded initiative, see http://www.computingmatters.org). During this next year, Shodor will also be working to expand outreach efforts to UNC-Charlotte, East Carolina University, Western Carolina University, and the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute. Our summer programs came to an end with the two-week Shodor Scholars Program institute, introducing a new class of potential apprentices to 21st Century workforce skills, culminating in presentations of original investigations in math and science.
Through our National Computational Science Institute, Shodor also conducted workshops for college faculty and high school teachers in a dozen states, and three countries (in fact, I am writing this letter to you from Melbourne, Australia, where I am helping Monash University design both undergraduate and Master's level programs in computational science, modeling, and visualization).
Shodor's first mobile app, Math Flyer (for more information, or to purchase this app, see http://www.shodor.org/mathflyer) has hit the Apple App Store and already students and teachers are experiencing the power of truly dynamic exploration of math and science. We have made great progress learning how to migrate more of our interactive explorations into web apps for both "traditional" computers and mobile devices. We certainly appreciate all of your suggestions and help to make this resource known to as many students, teachers, and school systems as possible.
Last but not least, Shodor is less than a month away from moving to our new science education center, a learning space being custom built for us in the Golden Belt Manufacturing complex on Main St in Durham, right on the Bull City Connector route. One of our student alumni has started a matching fund campaign to help us with the increased costs of the move and the new center. Your generosity is very much appreciated!
We also appreciate "sweat equity"! As part of the move, dozens of Duke Graduate students will be able to get out of line camping for basketball tickets in exchange for a solid morning of volunteer effort to help us pack. We will be scheduling a grand opening soon after, so watch for that announcement. Having you celebrate with us will make the move all the more exciting.
Thanking all of you and each of you for your continued encouragement and support,
This summer Shodor participated in the Kenan Fellowship Program. The Kenan Fellowship Program aims to enhance the instruction and curriculum for K-12 students by increasing teacher efficacy. Shodor hosted two Kenan Fellows, Dianna Stavros and Kent Lewis; both are teachers in the Raleigh/Durham area. By participating in the Fellowship, Shodor is mentoring Dianna and Kent in hopes of teaching them new skills they can use in their own classrooms. Near the end of their fellowship, both Dianna and Kent will write lesson plans that will be available to other teachers via the internet.
Currently, Dianna is working with Interactivate. Specifically, some of the tools on Interactivate have lesson plans, but they currently are out of the scope of students in grades K-5. She is developing these lesson plans so that other teachers can use the tools on Interactivate in their classrooms. Kent, however, is creating a model that will demonstrate the relationships of a foodweb - in this case, he is making a model with omnivores, carnivores, and herbivores.
Despite their different work, these two have something in common - they both enrolled into this fellowship to better the education of their students.
This summer, Shodor partnered with the Wade Edwards Learning Lab (WELL) in Raleigh to host a series of workshops for high school students. This program included a series of stand-alone workshops, including Algebra I Review, Geometry Preview, Chemistry Principles, Physics Principles, and Learning with Technology. In these workshops, students from the surrounding community looking to get ahead in next years' classes learned some of the main concepts of high school math and science.
These subjects were chosen because each requires a different set of critical thinking skills that are learned rather than innate. Working with geometric logic or conceptualizing atoms is initially difficult, but once students have their "aha" moment it makes perfect sense. This summer workshop program sought to create that "aha" moment for the students by showing how Shodor applets can be used to apply math and science to real-world events. Students worked in groups and conducted experiments to help them develop skills as independent learners and critical thinkers.
In another example, the physics workshop students didn't just try to memorize a thousand constants and equations; they actually got to derive them. Rather than understanding gravity as 9.807, students designed and conducted experiments to find that constant the same way Galileo did - by timing balls rolling down inclines. Naturally, not every student got exactly 9.807 as their answer, which vividly demonstrated the importance of error in scientific trials.
Students in the chemistry workshop also enjoyed putting themselves in the shoes of famous scientists as they attempted to determine the properties of an unknown atom from its atomic number. In order to mimic Mendeleev, they had to carefully study all of the different periodic trends, including electronegativity, atomic size, reactivity, and radioactivity. Rather than merely regurgitating information, these students got to apply it to a real-world situation and check their answers somewhere other than an answer key.
In the end, the addition of Shodor materials to the WELL summer program helped students to learn more effectively and made learning more fun.
Summers at Shodor are characterized by bustling activity and this summer was no different. Staff, interns, and apprentices work hard teaching on or off site workshops and working on various projects. This makes it seem like it's all work and no play at Shodor. True, it is all work at Shodor; but The Shodor Enrichment Committee sees to it that summers are not only productive but also fun.
The Committee this year, was made up of five interns: Scott Young, Alexandra Solender, David Keatts, Maria Githua and Isabelle Sinclair. The Committee met at least once a week to plan and host fun after work activities that included a movie night, a LAN party and a visit to the Morehead Planetarium at the University of Chapel Hill. The LAN party was possible through a collective effort, where people brought their individual games and gaming equipment into the office, reflecting the team spirit at Shodor. These enrichment activities have enhanced team work in the office, built bonds between colleagues, increased work productivity and made the work atmosphere more relaxing. Interns and apprentices appreciate such an opportunity to get to know their mentors, which promotes a better work environment for everyone at Shodor. While all of the events are fun, some also have an education aspect like the Morehead Planetarium trip where everyone learned a lot about astronomy. Similarly, students are excited to learn a lot in the upcoming trip to the Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC.
Other scheduled summer enrichment activities include a Durham Bulls game, a ropes course, an aqua- themed movie night, and an end of summer party. The Committee would like to thank everyone for their participation!
Students in grades six through twelve come to Shodor's office to take part in the exciting, mind-stimulating SUCCEED workshops. During the summer, the SUCCEED workshops are a big part of how Shodor reaches out to the youth in the Triangle area. So far, Shodor has hosted eight workshops, four at the high school level and four at the middle school level. On the schedule still are three more workshops this summer: two geared towards middle school students and the Shodor Scholars Program (SSP) for high school students. SSP usually serves as a gateway to the apprenticeship program, which in some cases even leads to an internship at Shodor.
This summer, Shodor has presented students with many choice workshops including popular Shodor workshops such as Forensics Science, which focuses on applying different computational methods to solve mysteries in forensics science. Another popular workshop is Explorations in Engineering, which allows students to build excitement and knowledge on different concepts and elements in engineering with the aid of computational science.
Shodor's summer workshops are designed to create an engaging learning environment for the students so that they can learn the content and learn to work with those around them. One student observed this design in her reflections when she said, "All of the teachers were very helpful and made it interesting but fun at the same time. My peers were good with helping me stay on task and they made it a fun learning environment." By engaging students, these workshops play a big role in getting students interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) which are skills that are helpful in the 21st century workplace.
Ever since Shodor was founded, students have been mentored into successful STEM members of society, both in and out of the office. It is easy to see that students that pass through Shodor's workshops, apprenticeship program, and intern program gain invaluable computational experience that they could not have found elsewhere. Alyssa Canty was one of those students, and now she is on her way to achieving her goal of starting a non-profit organization to address social justice issues.
Alyssa Canty, a recent graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, was a Shodor intern from January 2010-August 2010. Her main projects included testing Interactivate activities and creating instruction pages, lessons, and discussions. In addition to this she helped out with many different off-site workshops in Durham. Alyssa came to Shodor as an APPLES intern. APPLES, or Assisting People in Planning Learning Experiences in Service, is a service-learning program at UNC. After completion of her required service-learning hours for APPLES, Alyssa continued to work at Shodor throughout the summer.
Alyssa graduated in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Women Studies and Public Policy with social and education policy concentrations. She will be working as a Residential Coordinator at Salem College all while taking more classes to earn her certificate in Non-for Profit Management. Alyssa plans to work for a non-profit and ultimately start her own as a way to address issues of today while working with children, women, and minorities. She cites her experience at Shodor as a big influence on choosing this path, "Shodor really increased my interest in working in education and also using non-profits as a tool to drive improvements in society. I also gained the belief that non-profits are necessary for our society to survive unless there are policy changes that create equality, especially in regards to education".
Although it has been quite a while since she has worked at Shodor as an intern, Alyssa knows how important her internship was. Alyssa's time at Shodor has clearly influenced her decisions for her future. It should not be too long before we see her name on her own non-profit organization!