Announcing the official release of Adventures with Poly & Mer, an interactive learning technology platform that implements the scientific process of problem solving in an educational based gaming structure.

Coming to classrooms July 2012.

Adventures with Poly & Mer is powered by a proprietary technology system developed by Why Science assists and support instructors in

  • Teaching the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) scientific & engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and core disciplinary ideas simultaneously.
  • Preparing and developing NGSS aligned classroom assessments, instruction, curriculum, and more for the classroom.
  • Guiding students through the learning process.
  • Managing materials and communications for three dimensional (hands-on & minds-on) teaching & learning of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

We are confident our technology will greatly enhance STEM learning experience and will serve as a powerful aide in helping teachers in the classroom.

“When students learn by doing hands-on activities, science is taught only as a process. For learning to occur, students must have “minds-on” experiences where students use skills such as observing, inferring and experimenting to help them solve complex problems …”

– 1996 National Science Education Standards

Here at Why Science, we are very excited about the release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), because it validates the approaches we have used to implement the STEM teaching and learning recommendations of the 1996 National Science Education Standards in our suite of technology blend STEM learning solutions.

Sixteen years after the release of the 1996 Science Education Standards, our 15 year olds are 17th in Science and 25th in Math. On top of that, these shifting national trends have only served to widen our already unacceptable achievement gap, leaving more of our youngsters to have even fewer options as they enter adulthood.

Decades of research show that student achievement strongly correlates with the levels of engagement in learning. The core areas that students need help and guidance with when it comes to STEM learning are skills to be able to do and understand how information and knowledge are created and communicated with science. To teach these core STEM skills requires that students become familiar with the culture and practice of science as well as core disciplinary ideas in science. Thus the primary goal of the NGSS is to provide more guidance to educators on how to create hands-on & minds-on learning environments that will more fully engage students in STEM learning.

Hands-on & minds-on STEM learning environments are created when educators teach STEM in three dimensions i.e. teach

  1.  scientific & engineering practices
  2. crosscutting concepts, ideas that cut across all disciplines of science
  3. core disciplinary ideas simultaneously

Note that the first two dimensions (1 and 2) deal primarily with the culture and practice of science and how mathematics, the arts, media and other tools are used to obtain and communicate scientific information.

Teaching STEM in three dimensions is a real challenge, it requires deep knowledge and confidence of how science, in more than one area of STEM, is practiced in the real world, and an understanding of how to translate real-world STEM practices into the K-12 classroom.  Already you can see that teaching STEM in three dimensions will be a difficult for all teachers. If you want teachers teaching science practice you would hope they have some experience for science practice.  In our current teacher preparation programs it is not clear when K-8 teacher learns scientific & engineering practices.  If teachers do learn science & engineering practices, it is often not at a level to implement the NGSS recommendations for STEM teaching and learning.  Various statistics show that 93 % of Grades K-8 teachers do not have a degree or certification in physical science and only 57 % of 8th graders have teachers with a major or minor in Math. Clearly something has to be done.

The Challenge:

In the classroom, the challenge for teachers is that they have to implement each one of the three dimensions for teaching STEM into all activities for delivering STEM education.   These activities range from translating the NGSS framework and standards into the curriculum materials, the instruction the teacher delivers,  the preparation and development required for the teacher to be effective in the classroom, and the assessments required to evaluate what students are learning.

Our Solution:

We developed Poly & Mer to provide all teachers, regardless of background and teaching experience, with a resource to replicate the highly effective hands-on & minds-on learning environments we created in Why Plastics?  for any STEM subject taught.

To replicate optimal hands-on & minds-on learning environments in any classroom we structured the Poly & Mer e-Platform to drive all forms of learning as an inquiry process.  When you go an Adventure with Poly & Mer reading, writing, speaking, listening, learning STEM content or other content, preparation and development activities for teaching and for projects all occur as an inquiry process.  We chose the inquiry cycle recommended in the 1996 standards as a framework for developing software that holistically supports three dimensional teaching and learning of scientific and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts because it models the scientific problem solving approaches used  STEM product research & development, business, media, law, and other professions.

Structuring Curriculum to Support NGSS Aligned Teaching & Learning of STEM

The curriculum of each Poly & Mer learning module is structured to help teachers deliver NGSS disciplinary core ideas in one or more areas simultaneously with closely related engineering practices.  It is also structured to progressively develop to varying degrees all science process skills (Asking Questions, Observing, Planning & Investigating, Communicating, Predicting, Interpreting, and Hypothesizing) that scientists and engineers use and apply when researching and developing new products and technologies. Why? When scientist solves real-world problems 5 – 7 skills are used to varying degrees so it is important for students to develop and apply all skills in a way that reflects how they will use them in future careers.

For example, “What Makes Plastics Different”? can be used to increase performance in Physical Science 1- Matter and its interactions and teach fundamentals of bioplastics manufacturing technologies. “Rice is Life” can be used to increase performance in Life Science 2 – Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics and introduce challenges associated with engineering systems for sustainable farming.  Crosscutting mathematics concepts for physical science, life science and other disciplinary areas can be taught in depth in “Mathematics 2.0”.

To recap, the Poly & Mer e-Platform assists learning of STEM content in the modules as a process where students learn and apply related scientific and engineering practices and crosscutting concepts to solve core disciplinary problems posed in the learning modules.

Will Teachers Use Poly & Mer?

We have been very fortunate to work directly with teachers throughout the Agile development of Poly & Mer.  In 2009, the idea for creating Poly & Mer was born out of my frustration with finding solutions to STEM engagement challenges communicated by teachers in our workshops.  By creating Poly & Mer, the Why Science team can compose on-demand solutions to match a teacher’s unique teaching style and comfort level with blending emerging technologies with traditional instructional approaches in the classroom.

To date, the feedback we have received from teachers on Poly & Mer has been nothing short of fantastic.  We are truly humbled and happy that teachers are telling us that we listened to them and have delivered a product that can benefit them professionally. Below are highlights of the benefits of Poly & Mer that teachers have communicated to us.

Teachers will Utilize Poly & Mer in the classroom to:

  • Teach scientific & engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas simultaneously.
  • Teach key organizing concepts of a single discipline and across multiple disciplines.
  • Provide a NGSS aligned learning framework for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems.
  • Relate to the interests and life experiences of students.
  • Connect societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technical knowledge in lessons.
  • Gain on-demand flexibility to customize content to teach and learn over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.

At Why Science we understand that time is scarce resource for teachers, and flexibility to customize resources is paramount to empowering teachers in the classroom. A core feature of the Poly & Mer learning software is that can be customized to meet the specific blended learning needs for instruction.

We look forward to engaging with you and to helping you meet the needs of today’s classroom while delivering a rich and very engaging STEM lesson plan that will help position our students to be successful in the rapidly evolving world of tomorrow.

Are you ready to make your classroom a richer STEM learning environment? Contact Us

 
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