Signed up for a MOOC titled E-learning and Digital Cultures. Let's see what these Massive Open Online Courses are all about. I hope I can keep up with it with my busy schedule. 40,000 + enrolled.
Einstein Fellows met at the Department of Energy to discuss the NGSS 2nd draft. I brought up my disappointment at not finding mention of introducing the Periodic Table in the middle school Performance Expectations. This should be introduced in middle school as properties of pure substances and chemical reactions are included (MS-PS1-b, MS-PS1-d). Mention of using the Periodic Table appears for high school only. As we went through the documents and print outs, we discovered that there were discrepancies between the Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI) and the topical versions; these two don’t read exactly alike. We looked at the NGSS as a guideline to construct assessments, so we refrained from feedback that will be completely ignored. My primary concern, however, is that these performance expectations favor uniformity of approached rather than being conducive to diversity, equity and inclusive of all students’ backgrounds. Since the Committee of Ten (1893) we have had a standardized curriculum and “the cumulative effect is to deny the validity of any other cultural perspective on science-in particular on which might have more relevance to women and students from other cultures…” (p.60, Claussen & Osborne, Science Education, Vol. 97, No. 1, pp. 58-79, 2013). NGSS is another elegant example reflecting the values of an elite where “the imposition of a cultural arbitrary by an arbitrary power” is apparent (p. 60, Claussen & Osborne, citing Bourdieu).

As part of the inauguration week festivities, yesterday NASA participated in the Jack and Jill of America Inauguration Celebration at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, Pentagon City. Jack and Jill of America, Inc. is not only celebrating the Presidential Inauguration and the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, but it is also celebrating its 75th Anniversary Commemoration. Jack and Jill is a national organization with chapters throughout the country dedicated to inspire children and empower parents to foster the leaders of tomorrow. Our Mission STEM activity, part of NASA’s Educate to Innovate program, had Leland Melvin, Associate Administrator for Education, kicking off the event, and several NASA volunteers. We had an Xbox 360 Mars Rover Landing simulation for the kids to practice, a complete spacesuit on display and a demonstration and hands-on activity in which students designed and constructed a mock pressure suit for Marshmallow Peep ‘astronauts’ to be tested in a vacuum chamber. You can find this ‘survival in a vacuum’ lesson and related activities at Send me any feedback if you go over the document or use any of the lessons; I’ll be curious to know how you use them and how your students react to the activities. We had over 100 smiling kids during the event; parents and kids alike were delighted with the venue. Even Charlie Bolden, NASA Administrator, made an appearance; that was a real treat. NASA Rocks!

Last week many Einstein Fellows, scientist assistants and scientists presented at the Reverse Science Fair (RSF) at the National Science Foundation (NSF). The event ran from Tuesday thru Thursday. I had a blast; and even though I haven't been out of the classroom for too long, I was craving interaction with students. There were about 45 students from Washington, DC Stuart-Hobson Middle School. The students who came in Thursday, the day I presented, were 8th graders. This Reverse Science Fair was organized by NSF-Division of Environmental Biology. It was arranged as a poster session presentation in which students rotated every 10 min between stations. Students voted on their favorite presentations, I won in the Einstein Fellows division. One group of students commented: “This dude made learning about the Kepler Mission and finding planets Earth’s size or smaller fun, signed the Ghetto Girls.” I told one of the scientists that they should do a RSF more often, perhaps every two months or so to reach more undeserved students from the DC/Arlington area. The RSF increases students’ awareness of research programs and protocols, engages them in hands-on activities related to their scientific investigations, promotes inquiry and makes relevant STEM research for society. The scientists are challenged to communicate their research in an accessible way  while inspiring the next generation of STEM professionals.