Wednesday, November 9, 2016

STEAM Night 2016

The Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City dazzled young people with its third annual STEAM Night. The Urban League's Parent Resource Center Forum, a new component to the event, occurred simultaneously on another floor.

This is a highly adaptable model for other mentoring or community organizations.

Cleverly organizers held the event at the University of Oklahoma's Health Science Center's Student Union so attendees were on a college campus. This also made having health science professors, students, and recruiters there along with many interactive STEAM activities.

Making and Firing Rockets

Kendall Brown, "Rocketeer"

Dee Liggons, Rocketeering Recruiter

The cost of making the rockets is minimum, and youths can be as creative as they wish. Young people really enjoyed this activity.

Air-Powered Spinning Machine from Boeing

Richard Laskey, a University of Oklahoma graduate and a Boeing employee, conducted the air-powered spinning machine station.

Circuit Boards  - built from everyday things, e.g., the motor from an inexpensive electric toothbrush.

STEM Outreach Coordinator for Rose State College, Michael Garrison, who has an M.S. in aerospace administration and logistics, was so enthusiastic about this project. For some time, we observed him enthralling two young people, one of elementary age and one of middle school or high school age. When not representing Rose State, Garrison also has his own company, S.T.E.A.M. I AM to illustrate science, technology, engineering, and math for youths.

Catapults & Foil Boats Ferrying Gummy Bears - Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma

Julien Warren and Sharice Robinson had pans of water, foil, and Gummy Bears to allow attendees to construct their own boats, load them with Gummy Bears, and see if the construction plan worked. In addition, they had wooden tongue depressors, plastic spoons, cupcake/candy papers, and rubber bands to build catapults to hurl marshmallows. Girl Scouts is "all over" STEM curriculum.

Worm Power

While observing this activity, an elementary-age girl kindly and eagerly offered me her tiny worm, which I took gleefully and handed back. The inquisitive young lady was fascinated and fascinating.

College of Dentistry

The large set of teeth was a kid magnet. These college "recruiters," really a professor and a student, had an interesting prop and dynamic personalities. Dr. Bernard Rhine, left, and Charles Mosley, a second-year dental student, make a significant impression on kids and us.

College of Allie Health

Allied Health encompasses all of the careers listed above.

Susan Tucker, assistant dean for Student Affairs, College of Allied Health, not only had a giant cereal box but also a leg with muscles, etc.

Brent Ross, outreach and recruitment coordinator for the College of Medicine-Admissions, also answered questions of attendees and discussed opportunities in medicine.

Heath Burge, the assistant dean for Student Affairs for the University of Health Sciences Center, on behalf of the College of Nursing made a special effort to be at the STEAM event.

Circuit Boards II

At this station, we asked the young student enjoying the activity to tell us about it, and he did. Bravo! Class Matters "provides science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) exposure to socially and economically disadvantaged youth in Oklahoma City" since 2010.    

More OUHSC Options

Zelina Estrada, OUHSC Student Affairs/Campus and Community Life coordinator, discusses opportunities. Yes, she has a variety of props including the skeleton.

College of Pharmacy

Jennifer Richardson, director of recruitment and omissions for the College of Pharmacy, and Amanda Rice, pharmacy student, hold molecule models at their table.

OETA, Oklahoma Education Televisional Authority, has so many educational avenues for all ages. OEA can help lay the foundation early on and along a youth's growth. Representing OETA is Darrell Strong, program manager. Strong also has his own business as DJ ProSTAR.


Enthralling youths with knowledge and charisma were Jasmine McCloud, a mechanical engineer (B.S.) and a biomedical engineer (M.S.), and Gerald Fleming, an electrical engineer in addition to mathematics and music technology specialties. Their company is Bandkhamp. 


The event's organizer-in-chief is Violet Ford, director of education and family development for the Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City. Having met Violet in 2012, we have watched her can-do spirit and creative vision steadily grow innovative education programming and community.

The Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City has really thrived in its programming with passionate, outgoing, genuine, and highly goal-focused leadership and staff. We salute them all. 

Not pictured: Carrie McClain, Jabar Shumate, and D'Andre Fisher provided connections between Urban League and the health science center. Shumate is vice president of OU's University Community, McClain is associate director for the HSC, and Fisher is special assistant to Mr. Shumate, the vice president, and director of operations. 

The Urban League of Greater Oklahoma City effectively executes Project Ready, the signature mentoring program of the National Urban League. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Outdoor Learning & Well-Being

This is the perfect follow-up to the recent  STEAM Summer Academy outing posts. Jordan Shapiro tweeted this article on July 22, 2016. 

Source: Hurst Photo/Shutterstock
Increasingly, children around the world have fewer and fewer opportunities to play and learn outdoors. Growing evidence shows that the disconnection from nature caused by urbanization and living in a digital era (along with a host of other reasons) is causing the minds and bodies of 21st century children to short-circuit on many levels.
According to a team of international experts, the lack of time spent out-of-doors is triggering a swath of unexpected negative consequences for younger generations. A new study, published today, makes a strong case for policymakers to consider the benefits of implementing outdoor learning as a cost-effective way to improve children's well-being and quality of life. 

"Nature's Peace Will Flow Into You...While Cares Drop Off Like Autumn Leaves"

Over a hundred years ago, in response to industrialization and mass migration towards city life, there was a 20th century push by people such as President Theodore Roosevelt and Sierra Club founder, John Muir, to encourage Americans to reconnect with Nature. In his 1901 book, On National Parks, Muir wrote,
"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature's sources never fail."
Library of Congress/Public Domain
John Muir circa 1902. 
Source: Library of Congress/Public Domain
We all know that our daily lives in the 21st century are dominated by portable digital devices and smartphones that have the power to sever our ties with the naturalenvironment—in ways that John Muir could have never imagined. The latest global research shows that in nations around the world, children are losing their freedom to play, explore, and be physically active in their outside environments for a wide range of complex reasons. Being denied the opportunity to explore the outdoors can have detrimental impacts on a child’s physical and psychological development. What can we do to fortify stronger connections with Nature?
In recent years, I’ve written a number of Psychology Today blog posts about the importance of the environment on a child’seducation. Over the past 10 years, there've been five significant international reviews focused on the childhood benefits of formal and informal learning in natural environments.
As the parent of an 8-year-old, I have a vested interest in keeping my finger on the pulse of the latest empirical findings on various ways to optimize a child's well-being. My hope in writing about these topics in a public forum is to be a small catalyst for creating a groundswell that motivates policymakers to think outside the box when it comes to keeping our children healthy, happy, and resilient in a topsy-turvy and rapidly changing world. 
In my opinion, the most poignant research on the benefits of spending time outdoors are reports that being immersed in nature increases loving-kindness and theory of mind. For people of all ages, the sense of wonder and awe that is inspired by nature creates a belief that there is something out there ‘bigger’ and more important than you in the universe. This tends to nurture the tendency to think globally and with less navel-gazing. Researchers have also found that kids who spend more time outdoors tend to have a stronger sense of self-fulfillment and spirituality than those who spend most of their time inside.

5 Ways Outdoor Learning Optimizes Children's Overall Well-Being

Learning that takes place in green spaces—such as parks, gardens, wildlife areas and woodland, as well as on outdoor field trips has been found to increase children's engagement and enriched the learning experience in many ways. Researchers have found using local green spaces can give children time valuable time outdoors at little or no increase to school budgets. 
The latest research identifies multiple ways that outdoor learning can have a significant and positive impact on children's well-being. In a new report, researchers present a framework which lays out how government policymakers could introduce outdoor learning as an integral element of national education policies.
The July 2016 report, "Student Outcomes and Natural Outcomes: Pathways From Evidence to Impact 2016," was produced by Plymouth University in the UK and Western Sydney University in Australia. 
The new report highlights the wide range of benefits to children of learning in the natural environment. The benefits of outdoor learning go beyond improving academic prowess. Outdoor learning also improves social skills, behavior, physical and psychological health, boosts resilienceconfidence, and a sense of place.

Outdoor Learning Improves Well-Being by Creating 5 Outcomes:

  1. Healthy and Happy Body and Mind
  2. Sociable Confident Person
  3. Self-Directed Creative Learner
  4. Effective Contributor
  5. Active Global Citizen
In a statement, Sue Waite, Reader in Outdoor Learning at Plymouth University and one of the authors of the new report, said:
"At the moment, if outdoor learning is part of a school's curriculum in England, it is largely because the teachers recognize the values of it. With so much focus on academic attainment, there can be pressure on teachers to stay in the classroom which means children are missing out on so many experiences that will benefit them throughout their lives.
This report shows that although there is significant research which supports outdoor learning for academic as well as social and personal outcomes, it is only by having that recognised by policy makers that we are likely to achieve universal positive cultural change."

Conclusion: Access to Nature Improves Well-Being Throughout Your Lifespan

The new report was produced following the Lessons from Near and Far conference led by Plymouth University in July 2015, which featured 21 international presentations intended to encourage researchers, practitioners, and policymakers to share ideas of best practice which could potentially be embedded into national outdoor learning policies. Although this research took place overseas, the findings are applicable in the United States.
I can attest to the awe-inspiring and transformative power of outdoor learning. In the 1970s, when New York City was going bankrupt, my parents decided to leave the crumbling chaos of Manhattan in pursuit of a bucolic life in rural Pennsylvania. They bought an old limestone farmhouse in Mennonite country surrounded by endless fields and green pastures close to Hershey, where they make the chocolate bars. 
We left town in our wood-paneled Chevy station wagon with John Denver songs playing on the radio around 1974... I joined 4-H and got a horse named Commander. Once in Pennsylvania, my parents let me run wild. I was free to explore the never-ending wilderness on horseback to my heart's content. I got lost sometimes, but always found my way home before sundown. It was an idyllic childhood existence. 
As I was growing up, my mom always had singer-songwriters—such as John Denver, Cat Stevens, Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor... who seemed to deeply value a connection with nature—in heavy rotation on the 8-Track player in the car and the turntable at home. These songs became the perfect soundtrack to have the conversion experience of an urbanite—who saw the world as a concrete jungle in black and white with lots of shades of gray—to experiencing a type of rebirth in which everything in the world suddenly sprung to life in vivid technicolor after tapping into the power of nature.
My mother and father were laid back to the point of being the antithesis of today's typical "helicopter parents." I like to think that their hands-off approach was based on a conscious decision that they wanted the experiences I had living in the country to feel autonomous and boundary-less. That said, a laid back approach to parenting was also part of the American zeitgeist of the '70s. Whatever my parents' motivation for letting go of the reins and allowing me and Commander to run free through the corn fields, it was the best education I could have gotten at the time.
To this day, whenever I hear the song "Morning Has Broken," it takes me right back to the first time I felt every cell in my body connect with the power of nature on a visceral level when I was 9 years old. It was a conversion experience that makes me crave living close and connected to nature as an adult. In closing, below is a 1971 live version of the song, which holds timeless wisdom and captures an innocence that seems to be lost these days. I'm optimistic that we can renew some of our lost innocence by fostering outdoor learning from a young age in every nation.
To read more on this topic, check out my Psychology Today blog posts, 
© 2016 Christopher Bergland. All rights reserved.
Follow me on Twitter @ckbergland for updates on The Athlete’s Way blog posts.
The Athlete's Way ® is a registered trademark of Christopher Bergland.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

STEAM Academy Outing 2015 III: Water and More Water

The last two rotations of the OKAN's Eugene Field Elementary's STEAM academy nature outing curriculum featured water information from educators at the Oklahoma Conservation Commission, a real asset for educating people around the state about one of our most precious commodities.

Recap of presenters also mentioned in previous posts

Presenters for the "Martin Nature Park Outing" were William "Bill" Diffin, president of the Central Oklahoma Audubon Society; Linda Daxon, Central Oklahoma Beekeepers Association and an OKC realtor;  Paul Olson, Ph.D., plant biologist from the University of Central Oklahoma; his son and assistant Luke; Kim Shaw, Blue Thumb education coordinator, Oklahoma Conservation Department; Kim's intern Ariel McAffrey; Karla Beatty, education coordinator, carbon/soil health program, Oklahoma Conservation Department; and Denise Ebersbach, Edmond community volunteer. Diffin, Daxon, Olson, and Ebersbach were mentioned in the two previous posts about the outing.

Watershed/Nonpoint Presentation, Blue Thumb Program

The Blue Thumb Program uses the 3-D EnviroScape (R) Watershed/Nonpoint Source model as a hands-on, interactive demonstration to illustrate the sources and effects of water pollution. Kim Shaw's interactive lesson hammers home how we consciously and unconsciously pollute our water supply and what we can do to prevent pollution in the city and in the country. 

Kim Shaw and Eugene Field STEAM academy students
Shaw and McAffrey, her intern, show how storm water runoff carries pollutants through the watershed to a pond, lake, river, bay, or ocean. By moving items around and by adding colored water to the once clear water supply, pollution and prevention management become clear. 

Ariel McAffrey,
Blue Thumb intern

Types of watershed pollution discussed

  • Residential
  • Stormwater and storm drains
  • Forestry
  • Transportation
  • Recreation
  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Industrial (factory, treatment plant)

In the blue at the front of the model is the once clean water, which has been colored by adding different colored water which represents pollution from various sources. Eventually, the watershed will be entirely black. 

Some of the movable items include a storm drain pipe, bridges, houses, a barn, a factory, a treatment plant, trees, golf flags, cows, cars, a tractor, and a construction vehicle. Management practices are buffer strips, clay for making berms, manure container, soil, oils and chemicals (colored water or drinks). 

Did you know an overabundance of essential plant nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous can create overgrowth of algae, which can rob oxygen from fish and other aquatic animals? 

Willie Waterdrop's Obstacle Course 

Either after seeing examples elsewhere or by creating her own teaching tools, Karla Beatty built many of the Oklahoma Conservation Commission's hands-on activities used to illustrate the water cycle, e.g., Willie Waterdrop's Obstacle Course.

Using colored tarps, spray bottles of water, colored cones, hula hoops, beads, rope ladders on the ground, 3-D models, and much more, Beatty walks Eugene Field Elementary STEAM academy students through the cycle.

In the middle of the back is the clever 3-D representation of a toilet.

Four stages of the water cycle

 - Precipitation

 - Collection

 - Evaporation

 - Condensation

Walking through the rain curtain

Spray to simulate rain

Some elements discussed and experienced                      

 - Groundwater

 - Lakes

 - Snow and ice

 - Runoff

 - Plants

 - Clouds

 - Oceans

 - Sun

 - Toilets, faucets, glass, etc.

Schools and other groups may contact the Oklahoma Conservation Commission to check out trunks or to schedule presentations.

Here again is the group photo from the 2015 Martin Nature Park Outing for Eugene Field Elementary STEAM academy students. STEAM academy partners were OKAN, the City of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City Public Schools. Outing partners were the presenters and coordinator and the Boren Mentoring Initiative. Thanks to all.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

STEAM Academy Outing 2015 II: Biology & OK Symbols

Two other portions of the OKAN's Eugene Field Elementary's STEAM academy nature outing curriculum featured biology and Oklahoma symbols. 

Recap of presenters from previous post

Presenters for the "Martin Nature Park Outing" were William "Bill" Diffin, president of the Central Oklahoma Audubon Society; Linda Daxon, Central Oklahoma Beekeepers Association and an OKC realtor;  Paul Olson, Ph.D., plant biologist from the University of Central Oklahoma; his son and assistant Luke; Kim Shaw, Blue Thumb education coordinator, Oklahoma Conservation Department; Kim's intern Ariel McAffrey; Karla Beatty, education coordinator, carbon/soil health program, Oklahoma Conservation Department; and Denise Ebersbach, Edmond community volunteer. Diffin and Daxon were mentioned in the previous post about the birds and bees.

Plant Biology

"Dr. Paul" in true Aristotelian fashion used the peripatetic teaching method. As a plant biologist, subject matter was everywhere--up, down, and all around.  As he was about to begin with one of the rotating groups of students, Luke, his son strikes a pose. 

Dr. Paul remarked later that he would have been successful if he taught them to "Just look up!" So much wonder surrounds us, and we simply don't look or take notice. 

Note the young man on the left is looking up in a manner similar to his instructor's.

Listening to questions

That Dr. Paul Olson, a faculty member of the University of Central Oklahoma, took his time to teach and interact with these students has many effects. Although he volunteered because he is a considerate man and an advocate both of biology and educating younger students, he inadvertently performed higher education outreach. All of the volunteers represented and presented their passions well. Who can conjecture what positive ramifications this outing day may have? 

And off they go!
Oklahoma Symbols

Denise Ebersbach, an Edmond community volunteer, studied the Oklahoma symbols lesson and artifacts from the traveling trunk checked out of the Oklahoma History Museum. If you haven't looked at and used any of the resources available through the center, you should. 

For more information on the Oklahoma Symbols trunk: 

Some touchables included a stuffed bison plush toy, which Ebersbach is holding in the photo; watermelon; a miniature cotton bale wrapped in burlap; rose rock; a twister in a bottle; and much more.

For example, do you know what Oklahoma's meal is?
"Fried Okra, Squash, Cornbread, Barbeque Pork, Biscuits, Sausage & Gravy, Grits, Corn, Strawberries, Chicken Fried Steak, Black-eyed Peas, and Pecan Pie"

Oklahoma's flying mammal is the Mexican Free-tailed Bat, milk is the state drink, and the honeybee is the state insect, watermelon is the state vegetable, and the state musical instrument is a fiddle. Among many other Oklahoma symbols, we have state songs. Did you know that "Faded Love" by John Willis and Bob Wills is Oklahoma's country and western song, and its rock song is "Do You Realize??" by the Flaming Lips? Check out the trunk(s)!

The outing culminated the two-week learning experience. 

OKAN, the Oklahoma Expanded Learning Network, organized the Eugene Field Summer STEAM Academy through a partnership with the City of Oklahoma City and Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Here is the group photo, also published in the first post. These were well-behaved, curious, kind, appreciative students. Bravo to Eugene Field Elementary parents and teachers for a job well done.