Joann Askew, Lower School Science Lab/STEM Instructor

Science, Technology, Engineering, Math – disciplines collectively known as STEM, the buzz word of the science community, has evolved. It became STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, ART, and Math. Then, before we could memorize it, it morphed into STREAM (Science, Technology, READING , Engineering, Art, Math). It is comparable to our ever-changing complex world and we continue to adapt our educational approach. As we educate the next generation, it is more important than ever that we prepare our youth to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. It addition to content knowledge it is crucial that we train students in the field of technology to meet the needs of the world’s workforce. We can no longer educate in a traditional format that presents itself as “a teacher in front of the room – teaching content” and measure progress with traditional “fill in the bubble” tests. We need to instill a desire for building, creating, tinkering and making. These provide helpful projects that promote further exploration and learning in our naturally curious youth. We need to question like a scientist, design like a technologist, build like an engineer, create like an artist, deduce like a mathematician and most importantly…play like a child. In order to maintain global influence, we continue to advance our efforts in educating under the current acronyms. November 8, is National STEM/STEAM day. A day recognized and set aside to inspire youth to identify passions related to these disciplines. We are fortunate to live in a time where information is so accessible; we have no excuses. We find trends are changing, we continue to make headway encouraging girls and women to impact the STEM/STEAM/STREAM workforce.

Realizing the trends of the present parents, mentors, and educators will need to utilize STEM, STEAM, STREAM – in fact, all subjects to build leaders of the future. As we prepare our students to excel, not only in school, but in LIFE, we recognize the need to educate differently. So on November 8, National STEM day, gather up the students in your life, get a full head of STEAM and create something that engages, stimulates curiosity, and just might make an impact in the world.

There is No Math Gene

By: Michelle Hyde, FUSE Math Teacher

If you’re a person, and you do math, then good news! You are a math person! As a passionate math educator and self-professed math geek, here are my favorite tips to help YOU help your child be a better math student.

  • “I’m not a math person,” are the five most harmful words you can say in front of your child.  Avoid telling your child things like, “I was never good at math either.”  As adults you use math successfully every day, oftentimes, not realizing it because of your inherent number sense.
  • Encourage number sense.  Number sense is your ability to use and understand numbers and their relative values.  It includes using numbers to make judgments by developing useful strategies for mental math, counting, measuring, estimating, adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing.  For children of all ages, number sense development is crucial, so think out loud. Be aware of when you’re applying math skills in your daily life and talk about it with your child.  For example, at a restaurant, grocery, on-line shopping, gas station, etc., explain how you are determining the tip, the grocery budget, an on-line order with tax and shipping, gas mileage, compare gas prices, etc.  Don’t worry about “teaching.”  Just talk through your thought processes.  Have your child assist you with or without a calculator.  Also play games esp. with dice and cards to promote number sense in a fun way.
  • Be real. Relate to your child’s struggles with math and share your perseverance and success with math. Just as children meet developmental milestones such as walking and talking at different ages, your child will also master math concepts at different points throughout the school year. Students move from concrete thinking to abstract reasoning at different rates.
  • Be patient and positive when doing math homework with your child.  If math homework becomes too stressful, take a break and come back to it with fresh eyes.  If a math strategy is unfamiliar, look at class notes, examples, and/or contact the teacher.  Avoid criticizing “new math,” the curriculum, or the teacher.  Math skills and strategies that are new to a child (and sometimes to a parent) allow for brain growth.  Just like a good personal trainer will push you to do new exercises that initially cause struggle and sore muscles, your gains in strength and muscle tone allow you to value the workout, the trainer, and the belief in yourself.
  • Avoid associating math success with speed, which creates anxiety.  Students who work slowly are often deeper thinkers and develop stronger logical reasoning and problem solving skills.  If your child makes a mistake, find logic in their reasoning.  For example, if your child states 3 x 4 = 7, explain how it’s easy to rush and accidentally add.  Remind your child to slow down and take a closer look.
  • Have your child think aloud and explain his/her thinking.  Guide your child’s thinking and avoid telling him/her the answer.
  • Above all, encourage a growth mindset.  After all, MATHmeans Mistakes Allow Thinking to Happen.  When your child makes a mistake, tell him/her “That’s great because that means you’re learning, and your brain is growing!”

Inquiry Based Learning

By: Carol King, FUSE Instructor

As the world that our children are growing up in is changing, the way they view and learn about it needs to change as well. Schools are tasked with continually adapting to best meet the needs of students. There are several modern ways to approach teaching and learning that help children become 21st century learners who collaborateand problem-solve, are digitally literate, and can think critically. One effective method used in many classrooms today is called Inquiry Based Learning.

What Is Inquiry Based Learning?

Inquiry Based Learning (IBL) is a way for students to learn through exploration and investigation. Students are presented with a question or problem,then are allowed the time and freedom to discuss with their peers, research information, and engage in hands-on activities. Students are required to base their discoveries on evidence and often delve into data to support their investigations. Communication of their findings is also an important part of the process. Whether by writing or presentation, students share what they’ve learned with their peers.

What Does It Look Like In The Classroom?

There are many ways to use IBL across all subject areas. In a science classroom, this might come in the form of creating a water filter out of recyclable materials or determining a correlation between genetics and certain diseases. Social Studies students may determine alternate ways that the American Revolution could have been handled or plan and design a functioning community. In reading class, students could explore characters in a novel, participate in in-depth character study discussion groups, determine how a character’s decision in a novel could have changed the outcome,  and then justify a character’s choices. These are just a few of the many applications of IBL in the classroom. By allowing students to investigate and collaborate, what they learn has depth and meaning.

The Benefits

There are several benefits to teaching students through inquiry based learning methods. Students are at the center of this process, therefore are often more engaged due to feeling ownership of their learning. This investigative approach challenges students’ thinking and places a priority on evidence, logic, and imagination. By sharing their outcome, students practice communicating using appropriate vocabulary and learning to justify their conclusions.

Why Is It Important?

Inquiry Based Learning is an engaging approach that keeps students excited and accountable for their academic experiences. This teaching style forces them to be creative thinkers and explorers who can support and justify their findings. It provides opportunities for students to gain 21st century skills and thought processes needed to be valuable members of our community and future workforce, as well as lifelong learners.


For more information about the Clarksville Academy FUSE program visit:


By: Paul Mittura, Upper School Science

You get up on cold winter morning and the sparse clouds are beautiful reds, pinks, and oranges. Why? You are trying to head a soccer ball and can’t quite find the right place to be. Why? The breaker keeps tripping when you use your curling iron. Why? You are cleaning your bathroom and the new cleaner is making your eyes water and your throat scratchy. Why?

As a science teacher, people are constantly asking me why.

Most behaviorists would agree infants are born with innate reflexes like grasping, sucking, and blinking,but most behaviors are learned through exploration and experience. Most children will look at, pick up,and taste everything they can reach in their environment. As adults, we discourage the touching for fear of embarrassment and the tasting for obvious reasons. We encourage our children to explore in our predetermined “safety” filtered environment. This environment is usually inundated with the interests of the parents. For example if the parents are sports enthusiasts the toddler will be dressed in team apparel and every type of ball known will be in the playpen. We expose our children to what we know and like.

This behavior is both normal and expected.

As educators, it is incumbent upon us to introduce children to all disciplines. With STEM education, students are encouraged to explore the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Quality STEM educators can produce environments with “safety” parameters that allow each individual to experiment with disciplines they may not have had the opportunity to explore in a home environment. Early introduction is important for the formation of accurate concepts in a controlled environment with respect to the 4 disciplines. Continued exposure (grades 1-12) to these types of explorations is an important part of STEM instruction. One of the biggest obstacles for any educator is the dispelling of a misconception caused by misinformation or misinterpretation. Continually introducing STEM activities hopefully prevents these misconceptions from developing.

Now here comes the tough part. It is impossible for teachers to become “experts” in all areas of the educational process. Only through collaboration and pooling of resources to include expertise can pure STEM education be achieved. Vertical teaming (elementary and secondary teachers) and cross curricular teaming (science, math, English, social studies, fine arts, etc. teachers) is a good start. Ideally this would occur with each new unit,but as little as once each semester can capture a student for future studies in a discipline. This concept looks good on paper,but the logistics of moving teachers around and finding time for collaboration is a potential nightmare. Large group presentation is an option but is far less effective than single class presentations and hands on exploration. Regardless of the obstacles, STEM is a worthwhile endeavor. Capturing the interest of students is every educator’s goal and a school dynamic rich with STEM opportunities should be every institution’s goal.

To learn more about CA’s STEM program visit:


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