Family STEM: Tracking Animal Behaviors

By Lindsay Carroll, Oregon Sea Grant

Do you have a cat or dog at home that you find yourself watching a little more closely these days? Have you caught on to some of the behaviors of your pets or perhaps of birds, rabbits, or chipmunks you’ve seen out your window? You may have been inspired to take a closer look at the environment around you after reading the recently published Family STEM blog “Take a Fresh Look at Nature“.

With more time spent at home, you may find that your dog sleeps or rests all day long. You may have also noticed they wag their tail with excitement during play or when you come home from the grocery store. Or possibly those famous looks of guilt when they have gotten into the trash for the 100th time? Either way, all of these actions are behaviors. Do you think you would have noticed the amount of time your dog spends doing these behaviors if you weren’t home with them all of the time?

INSPIRE

Over time, scientists have tracked behaviors of a lot of different animals because recording what they are doing (behavior) and how long they are doing it (time) is how we learn more about them. Scientists who study animal behaviors are known as ethologists and they use ethograms as a way to collect data and answer important questions.

When you think of tracking animal behavior, you may think of the famous ethologist, Dr. Jane Goodall, and her work with chimpanzees. It is because of her many years of research and time spent with chimpanzees in their natural environment that we know so much about them. Get inspired by her decades of research!

Photo credit: Satya Deep, Unsplash

Then, see first hand the type of behaviors she may have witnessed over the years as you watch the monkeys in this video. Take a mental note or make a list of the various behaviors you observe. 

Have a fish tank at home? Take five minutes to note the different behaviors you observe of your fish. No fish tank? It’s ok, watch the first few minutes of these goldfish and take note of the different behaviors you see. What do the fish spend most of their time doing?

Photo credit: Biljana Martinic – Unsplash

You’re starting to look at these animals a little bit differently, right? Now, watch a zookeeper from the John Ball Zoo use an ethogram to learn more about her dog’s behavior in the backyard. Be sure to take note of the question she is trying to answer about her dog.

ASK A QUESTION

Now that we have spent some time observing a few animals and taking note of some of their behaviors, you may have a few questions.

Photo credit: Jules Bss – Unsplash

For example, you may wonder “Do fish in my fish tank spend most of their time swimming?” Or even, better — your observations may have inspired you to test a hypothesis, or educated guess, such as “I think the fish in my fish tank spend most of their time swimming.” What other questions might you have about the animals you observed?

Think back to the zookeeper who conducted an ethogram on her dog. What question was she trying to answer? You may have noted that she recently moved to a new home and she wanted to determine if her dog was adjusting well to a new space. By comparing her dog’s previous behavior to the data she collected, she determined her dog appears comfortable in her new home.

Equipped with all of this new knowledge, think of an animal on which you want to use  an ethogram to learn more about their behaviors. What question do you want to ask?

TRY IT!

STEP ONE: Select an Animal
If you have pets at home, great! No pets at home? Consider an animal in your backyard OR watch pre-recorded footage of animals listed below.

Photo credit: Oregon Sea Grant

You could also consider conducting your ethogram using one of the following webcams from local zoos and aquariums. But, note that these animals can be very mobile!

STEP TWO: Make Observations and Develop a Question
Whether you are watching your animal live or on a screen, be sure to take a few minutes to note some of their behaviors ahead of time. That way you can use your observations to inform a question you want to answer about your animal.

STEP THREE: Collect Data
Now it is time to collect behavior data on your animal! For your ethogram, you will record the behavior of your animal every 30 seconds for 10-15 minutes. Since we are collecting data, we need a data table. What should your data table look like? Think about the different variables we are considering – behaviors and time. For some pointers – try reflecting back to the zookeeper’s datasheet shown at the end of her video or possibly get some tips from this educator from the Environmental Learning Center. 

STEP FOUR: Draw Conclusions
You have data! Now, think back to your original question. What are some conclusions you can draw from the data collected? What are some of the behaviors your animal exhibited most frequently?  Why did animals do some behaviors more often than others? If you watched the goldfish in the tank – do they actually spend most of their time swimming?

STEP FIVE: Expand and Elevate Your Learning
Interested in expanding and elevating your ethogram abilities? Consider using this Sea Lion Ethogram Datasheet to conduct an ethogram on a sea lion located in Oregon’s Sea Lion Caves. Use footage from the Sea Lion Cave webcam and see what those often loud, smelly, but fun critters are up to these days. Are there new behaviors you are observing? Are there behaviors missing from the datasheet? Have fun with it!

Photo credit: Tracy Crews, Oregon Sea Grant

WHAT’S HAPPENING?

While it may be fun to watch your pets behaviors or learn more about animals via live webcams, we must take a minute to think about why we are doing it. What does it all mean? What information can be gained using ethograms? Not only can scientists learn more about animal behaviors, but once a baseline of behaviors is established, scientists can use ethograms to determine dramatic changes to an animal’s well-being and what may have caused them.

Tracking the behaviors of animals in zoos and aquaria is especially important, as unusual behaviors can often be a sign of changes to the animal’s health. Ethogram data can track different behaviors related to feeding, reproductive status, mating, seasonal changes, age/sex differences, social group dynamics, and more. Having a deeper understanding of these behaviors of animals in captivity could also  inform protection or management of wild animals.

In essence, ethograms help us detect Patterns, which is one of seven cross-cutting concepts that are prevalent throughout all science disciplines. Patterns occur all throughout the natural world. Think about the patterns you notice among honeycombs, flowers, and zebras. Just like these visual patterns, animals exhibit patterns of behaviors as well. Anomalies that we notice are what bring our attention to change and difference in the animal.

It is also important to note that as you move through the process of collecting data for an ethogram, you are engaging in critical Practices of Science. You are: 

  • Asking questions
  • Planning and carrying out an investigation
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using math
  • Constructing explanations

CELEBRATE AND SHARE

Photo credit: Oregon Sea Grant, GEMS

Knowledge is power! If you used an ethogram to learn more about your pet, you will be equipped with important baseline information that could be used to determine a change in their health or well-being in the future. 

Your curiosity does not need to end here. Consider increasing your data collection frequency – see if you notice new behaviors or perhaps the most common behavior changes. Think critically about what could be causing the differences. Is there a new question you could ask or hypothesis you could test?

Sample Questions:
“Does my pet….”

  • Spend more time on the floor or on the couch?
  • Sleep more than 6 hours a day?
  • Pee on one, many, or perhaps specific objects?
  • Behave differently when it is raining versus sunny? 
  • Act differently in the morning versus in the evening?

Photo credit: Ruby Schmank – Unsplash

Celebrate your newly gained information by sharing it with a friend! Do they also have a pet at home? Perhaps challenge them to use an ethogram to learn more about their pet and compare common behaviors. Does your dog rest more or less than their dog? Or, challenge them to watch the same webcam or online video and compare notes. Options are endless, so have fun with it. You are well on your way to becoming the next Dr. Jane Goodall!


Lindsay Carroll is the Marine Education Coordinator with Oregon Sea Grant, which is one of more than 60 partnering organizations in the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

The 2020 Family STEM series is brought to you by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub and its partners as part of its Let’s Keep Learning! Initiative. You can find more resources, live events, and lesson on our website: https://oregoncoaststem.oregonstate.edu/

Gold Beach Students Explore Watershed Issues

By Cait Goodwin, Oregon Sea Grant
with Debra Watson, Riley Creek School and Lindsay Carroll, Oregon Sea Grant

When rain falls on Riley Creek School, where does it end up? Are there pollutants in the watershed that could travel to the ocean? Debra Watson’s 5th grade students wanted to find out.

On a rainy day in December, the students headed outside to collect data that could help answer some of their questions. “It was a day when we were having rain and 60MPH gusts of wind, so we were WET!” recalled Debra. Walking around the schoolyard, students observed that the grounds were generally free of litter. But, what about the dog poop they observed near the school? Would the dog poop have an impact on surrounding areas? This led to a great discussion about what is in rainwater and where it goes. The students were left curious about where the water runoff from their playground went after it disappeared down the storm drain.

Riley Creek School is located just south of the Rogue River in Gold Beach, Oregon, and is named after a small creek that flows into the Pacific Ocean. Its location provides students with ample opportunities to explore the watershed and to make connections between the land and sea.

Debra began planning her watershed unit in November, when she first joined a cohort of other south coast teachers in a year-long MWEEs by the Sea project. “MWEE” stands for Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences, a framework used by the NOAA Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program, which funded a professional development series facilitated by Oregon Sea Grant in partnership with South Slough Reserve. To ensure field experiences would be “meaningful” for their students, Debra and the other MWEE teachers created long-term project-based learning units that would take their students on repeated, hands-on trips outside to learn about watersheds, local environmental issues, and stewardship opportunities.

Debra Watson participated in several teacher professional development trainings in 2019-20. In this photo she is taking part in a workshop focused on marine debris. Photo credit: C. Goodwin

Here are some highlights from Debra’s classroom activities in early 2020.

JANUARY
After their initial stormy field experience, the Riley Creek 5th graders spent the early weeks of January learning more about their watershed through readings, discussions, and videos. To introduce her students to the problem of plastic pollution in the watershed and ocean, Debra used curriculum from Washed Ashore and then took her students on a field trip to the exhibits in Bandon. “The students got to work on pieces for a condor sculpture, and they just thought the museum was the coolest thing they had ever seen.” said Debra. “They were thrilled to be there.”

three students examine a wall mural showing ocean gyres
Riley Creek 5th Grade Field trip to Washed Ashore.
Photo credits: Debra Watson

To prepare for their trip to Washed Ashore, local artist Elizabeth Roberts from Make Art Not Trash visited the students in their classroom. Her presentation about marine debris and the conversations that followed helped set up the students to understand what they would be seeing during their out of classroom experience. “They all know what a gyre is now,” Debra reported, “and they were able to match the artistic mural of gyres that they saw on the wall at Washed Ashore with the NOAA pictures they had seen back in the classroom.”

FEBRUARY
In February, Debra’s students conducted experiments to learn more about the characteristics of marine debris. They made hypotheses about whether different types of plastics were likely to sink or float in water, and then tested their ideas. They observed how plastics can hang in the water column and create a “soup”, how bottles full or empty behave differently, and how plastics might look like food to wildlife.

Late in the month, the students took a field trip to the new state-of-the-art Gold Beach Sewage Plant, as well as to the Water Treatment Plant located 5 miles upriver.

The students found out the differences between the two plants, and learned that their drinking water comes from the Rogue River.

“We are in the Rogue River watershed.”

Two Plants: One processes wastewater from people’s houses, and one gives us clean water to drink.

Back at school, the 5th graders spent time outside exploring Riley Creek and collecting macroinvertebrates. These “water bugs” helped them better understand the health of the creek.

MARCH
By March, the students were ready to brainstorm the issues they wanted to explore further. They discussed their interests and ideas, formed groups, and narrowed down the topics to a few main projects:

  1. Dog Poop – How does dog poop that is not picked up affect the school field, grassy play areas, and stormwater that flows to the ocean? This group was interested in coming up with policies, outreach messages, and other strategies to change the behavior of dog owners. 
  2. Marine Debris Art – How can we help the public understand the problem of marine debris? This group was interested in creating art projects that communicate marine debris impacts and solutions.
     – See examples of projects
  3. Beach Clean Up – What can students do to remove debris from local beaches? This group was interested in working with SOLVE to organize and advertise a beach clean-up event.
  4. PSAs – What kinds of things can people do to protect the environment? This group used Scratch.mit.edu to create digital media public service announcements.
     – See examples of projects here and here
  5. Inventions – What solutions could we design to address the problem of plastic pollution? One team in this group focused on ideas for inventions that would keep plastics from going down storm drains, and another team worked on designing an instrument that would separate microplastics from sand.
    Hear a student describe his design
Students working on projects at school.
Photo credit: Debra Watson

TRANSITION TO DISTANCE LEARNING
Today, as school has transitioned to distance learning, Debra and her 5th grade students remain enthusiastic about the topics they have been working on together. “We had just begun working when the pandemic hit” said Debra. Unfortunately, plans for additional field trips were canceled, and student projects were left in a variety of stages when schools closed. To see some of the projects students have been working on this year, visit this Student Work Folder.  For now, the Riley Creek team agrees: “We really enjoyed learning about watersheds!”

———————-
Cait Goodwin is a Special Projects Coordinator with Oregon Sea Grant Marine Education, and she coordinates the “MWEEs by the Sea” teacher professional development program in partnership with Jaime Belanger from South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Gold Beach teacher Debra Watson from Riley Creek School is one of 17 South Coast teachers participating in the 2019-20 MWEES by the Sea cohort.

Family STEM: Pass the STEM, please

By Lisa M. Blank, Oregon Coast STEM Hub

Engage the whole family in a lively mealtime STEM conversation!

bird's eye view of a dinner table crowded with dishes full of food and peoples hands passing the dishes around
Image credit: Shutterstock

Stress levels elevate when our ability to predict and control daily events erode. Given the unpredictability of life right now, establishing family dinner routines can provide a much-needed sense of security and feeling of belonging.

INSPIRE

Dinnertime can also be a great time to support STEM learning! Family STEM conversations can provide insight into how others think, a safe place to try out new ideas, and an opportunity to practice using evidence to support explanations while learning more about STEM concepts and careers.

STEM conversations can be any family discussion where topics related to science, technology, engineering, or math connections are explored.

TRY IT!

To get started, we suggest downloading the Family Dinner Projects STEM Conversations Starter Pack, which includes twenty STEM conversation starters such as, “Would you rather go for a walk in the forest or along the beach? Why?”                                                                           

“Would you rather go for a walk in the forest or along the beach? Why?”

Images: C. Goodwin


Here is one of our favorite STEM family conversation starters:

EXAMPLE

Hitchbot the robot sitting on a table

Have you heard of the hitchhiking travels of Hitchbot the Robot and how he met his untimely demise in Philadelphia after traveling throughout Canada and parts of Europe?                             

Image: Hitchbot in Canada (Wikimedia Commons)

If not, read this story with your family and start a conversation over tonight’s dinner with one or more of the questions below.

  • If you could drive, would you have picked up this hitchhiking robot if you passed him on the road? Why or why not?
  • Do you think we can/should trust robots? Explain.
  • Do you think robots should trust humans?
  • While some people are mourning the demise of Hitchbot, his creators see his journey as a success. What do you think about Hitchbot’s experiences?
  • Imagine you could invent a robot. What would it do?
  • If Hitchbot’s creators tried his journey again, do you think the same kind of thing would happen to him? Why or why not?

Questions provided by the Family Dinner Project

TIPS: 1) Hide a question under each family member’s dinner plate, or 2) pass around a bowl and have everyone randomly pick a question.

Hitchbot the robot sitting at a bar and a man hands him a bottle
Image: Hitchbot in the Netherlands (Wikimedia Commons)

CELEBRATE AND SHARE

To help keep your STEM conversations going, create a conversation jar to store your conversation starters. Leave a supply of blank strips nearby so family members can add their own ideas as well.

jar full of folded paper
Image credit: Shutterstock

If you have family members who do not live in the home with you, consider scheduling a virtual dinner party. Have each family member take a turn inviting a loved one and connect using Zoom, Facetime, Google Hangouts, etc.

GOING FURTHER

Not Just for Dinner
There is no one way to have a STEM dinner conversation. In fact, STEM conversations don’t have to happen at the dinner table. There are many opportunities throughout the day that may work better. Perhaps when going for a walk, washing the dishes, or as part of a bedtime ritual. Find what works for you and your family.

Bon apetit!


Lisa M. Blank is the Director of the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

The 2020 Family STEM series is brought to you by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub and its partners as part of its Let’s Keep Learning! Initiative. You can find more resources, live events, and lessons on our website: https://oregoncoaststem.oregonstate.edu/

Reedsport Third Graders Learn About Watersheds through Meaningful Field Experiences

By Cait Goodwin, Oregon Sea Grant

Think back to when you were in elementary school. Did you participate in a field experience that was so impactful you can still remember it today? “Out of classroom” experiences provide teachers and students the ability to explore local places and relevant issues through hands-on activities and interactions with community partners. These meaningful learning experiences build exposure, connection and curiosity, and often resonate with students well beyond the trip.

Third grade teachers Cristina Bettesworth and Anna Villegas from Highland Elementary School in Reedsport have spent the 2019-20 school year attending multiple professional development workshops to learn strategies for providing meaningful watershed-focused experiences for their students. With guidance from local partners at Oregon Sea Grant and South Slough Reserve, they designed a learning unit filled with lessons and field trips that helped students learn about coastal ecosystems, human impacts, and stewardship. These Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEEs) are part of the MWEEs by the Sea project, funded by NOAA Bay-Watershed Education Training program.

MWEE Professional Development

MWEEs by the Sea workshops help teachers plan and implement lessons focused on local and global environmental issues.

Photo credit: C. Goodwin

Cristina and Anna planned their third-grade unit together around three main topics: watersheds, salmon, and marine debris. Each topic was introduced in the classroom, followed by hands-on field experiences and connections with environmental professionals that served to further solidify and expand on student learning.

WATERSHEDS

A watershed is the area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water.

After students were introduced to the topic of watersheds in the classroom, they took a field trip to South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Charleston in February. With the help of South Slough staff and volunteers, students explored the flora and fauna of the watershed. The students observed how the coastal forest stream is connected to the estuary, experiencing the components of a watershed first-hand as they hiked down from the ridgetop.

Students learn about natural inhabitants of a coastal watershed on a hike down to Hidden Marsh. Photo credit: Cristina Bettesworth

To expand on their knowledge of different watersheds, they also visited other sites, including a local beach. After observing different watersheds in person, the students were able to head back to the classroom and create clay models of regional watersheds to show how water flows through local systems.

SALMON

Given the importance of salmon as a coastal resource, the Highland Elementary teachers knew it would be a natural fit to incorporate salmon studies into their MWEE unit. Salmon migrate between inland streams and the open ocean, showing students another way that land and sea are connected. In addition, parts of salmon life cycles can be experienced in the classroom, enabling students to study life cycles, an important 3rd grade learning standard!

With the help of volunteers from the Gardiner STEP (Salmon Trout Enhancement Program) facility and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife STEP biologist Evan Leonetti, the students set up tanks for hatching salmon eggs in their classrooms. Students collected water quality and other data and observed the salmon life-cycle in action as the eggs hatched and grew. When the fish were big enough, they were placed in a transfer tank and taken back to the STEP facility.

Young salmon hatched in the classroom are ready to be transported to the STEP facility. Photo credit: Cristina Bettesworth

In addition to hatching eggs in the classroom, the third graders headed off-school grounds and toured a hatchery, visited local salmon habitat, and some students even travelled to Salem to discuss salmon sustainability in south coast rivers.

MARINE DEBRIS

Marine debris is any solid, persistent, human-created waste that has been deliberately or accidentally introduced into a waterway or ocean.

To engage their students with a human impact that they could not only see and relate to, but also do something about, Cristina and Anna built lessons around the topic of marine debris. The students started this section by learning and researching about marine debris, answering question like: What is it? Where is it? and What are the impacts and possible solutions to the problem of marine debris?

“Sometimes garbage ends up in a stream or river
and will flow into the ocean.”

– Annabelle A., Third Grade, Highland Elementary

To further excite students, teachers arranged to have Elizabeth Roberts from Make Art Not Trash visit their classroom. She shared her experiences cleaning up marine debris from remote beaches in Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine, and told the students about the ways she uses art to help people understand the issue.

“Marine debris is a big problem that affects all of us. It happens in all waterways and is not only a problem in the ocean. We can all do our part to solve the marine debris problem. We just have to pick up trash and make sure our trash gets into the correct places.”

– Brody S., 3rd Grade, Highland Elementary

Prepared for their field experience, the Highland Elementary 3rd graders took a field trip to Bandon, Oregon, to conduct a beach clean-up at Seven Devils State Park, and to visit the marine debris art exhibits at Washed Ashore. The students took the marine debris that they collected from the beach back to school, separated the trash by types (plastics, microplastics, foam, nurdles, etc.), and graphed their results so they could see what types of debris were most commonly found in their samples. Inspired by the art they had seen from community partners, students used some of the marine debris they collected to create their own art projects. In addition, they wrote essays about the problem of marine debris to help explain marine debris impacts and solutions to others.

“We can help the marine debris issue by picking up our garbage and cleaning our beaches.”

– Bodhi L., 3rd Grade, Highland Elementary

Students cleaned up a Bandon beach and were inspired by art made from marine debris. Photo credit: Cristina Bettesworth

Today, the students are working on creating and sharing their essays, art projects, displays and slide presentations with others. You can see some of the student work generated by this project here.

“We can help deal with the problem of marine debris by not using plastic products. We can reuse products so that they don’t end up in the ocean.”

– Uriah I., Third Grade, Highland Elementary

Cait Goodwin is a Special Projects Coordinator with Oregon Sea Grant Marine Education, and she coordinates the “MWEEs by the Sea” teacher professional development program in partnership with Jaime Belanger from South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Reedsport teachers Cristina Bettesworth and Anna Villegas from Highland Elementary are two of 17 South Coast teachers participating in the 2019-20 cohort.

SeaCode Computer Science Camp

By Ruben Krueger

An intergalactic spaceship that flies through the blackness of space, shooting lasers, and dodging aliens—all while getting a high score. This was the game that 16 middle and high schoolers from Lincoln County coded over the course of three weeks in SeaCode, a free, introductory computer science camp.

SeaCode students and the teaching team met in the Boone Center of Newport High School. In this photo, they are wearing the camp t-shirts. (Photo: Brian Hanna)

Our society has been revolutionized by computer science, yet most of the general population is unaware of what “coding” —writing instructions for a computer—even means. Thus, Newport High School teacher Brian Hanna and I wanted to ameliorate this by creating SeaCode. Undergraduate students Jane Myrick, Gatlin Andrews, Ryan Russell and Alex Rash graciously helped us teach the camp. Interestingly enough, all five of us are former students of Mr. Hanna!

Gatlin, Ryan, and Alex are now computer science students at Oregon State University, and Jane is an English and Education double major, also at Oregon State. Brian is a math, physics, and nascent computer science teacher, and a winner of the 2015 Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Typing away in the Boone Center of Newport High School, the students used a web editor to write Javascript code (with help of the p5.js graphics library). The first day was an introduction to drawing with the p5.js library, and by the end of the two hour class, the students made a ball bounce off the edges of the screen, changing color each time. The next five days were a crash-course into the fundamentals of computer science, and included concepts such as variables, functions, and object-oriented programming.

During the remainder of the camp, the students worked on their games. Each day was focused on a implementing a major game feature (the star background, the spaceship, or aliens, for example), and this was broken down into a number of tasks for them. The tasks described what they had to do, but it was their responsibility to write the solution—they were not “handed” any code. Par for the course for emerging software engineers, this challenged the students and often necessitated extended debugging sessions and concept reviews.

A student coding the game.
Photo: Brian Hanna

Once students were finished with the day’s tasks, they added new features. For example, after finishing the star background, some students made their stars twinkle and others added in a “hyperdrive” feature which made the stars move past the ship at lightspeed. By the end of the camp, all of the games looked very dissimilar as the students added different types of aliens, lasers, spaceships, and even two-player modes!

Although we wanted all of the students to finish their games, creating an enjoyable experience for the students was our main goal. Thus, we abstracted away concepts that would be overly burdensome for a beginner, keeping only what was critical for the game. Moreover, we handed out incentives: all students received a t-shirt which said “I can code” and ice cream on the last day, and we raffled off a miniature drone and Arduino microcontroller.

Our next priority was exposing the students to the esoteric world of computer science. Currently, our educational system is inept at making students aware of this field. According to computer science education group Code.org, only forty percent of all high schools have computer science programs, when more than half of all new STEM jobs will be in software development. When I attended Newport High School, we lacked a computer science course; consequently, I was only introduced to coding when I joined our school’s robotics team. Fortunately, Brian Hanna has been working to change this. He attended SuperQuest workshops*, and this year he created and taught an introductory programming course, the first of its kind at Newport High School. However, with this camp we wanted to reach students across the county, from a wide range of ages, and students who would not be able to enroll in Hanna’s semester-long course.

It is our belief that even if a student left the camp without understanding what a variable is, then at least the student is aware of this field and would be more inclined to enroll in an introductory computer science course in the future. Additionally, we highly encouraged the students to further their study of computer science, and showed them free, online resources to do so.

You Can Code

Although the students, most of whom had no experience with computer science, made prodigious growth in their abilities, we, the teaching team, learned even more. This was my first time teaching computer science and I quickly realized that knowing a subject is necessary but not sufficient to teach that subject. Clearly communicating concepts such as variable scope, functions, and objects, I now appreciate, is much more difficult than actually using them.  As an ancillary benefit, we all became more familiar with Javascript, including some of its atrocious features such as implicit variable creation, type coercion, and automatic semicolon insertion by the interpreter. (These idiosyncrasies caused a majority of the student’s bugs.)

With these reflections, we have started planning next year’s camp, and are eager to accept more volunteers, grants, or any other type of assistance. For SeaCode 2019, we hope to create two camps—one for middle schoolers, one for high schoolers—and recruit more students from demographics underrepresented in software engineering.

SeaCode was sponsored by the Partnership Against Alcohol & Drug Abuse (PAADA), the Lincoln County School District, and Mo’s Restaurants. Additionally, this camp would not have been possible without the help of Brian Hanna, who helped me create and organize the camp.

More Information

*The summer SuperQuest teacher professional development workshops in Newport were offered by the Oregon Computer Science Teachers Association and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.


About the author
Ruben is a graduate of Newport High School and is currently a sophomore computer science major at Stanford University. His first experience with coding was during his senior year of high school through his afterschool robotics team which competed in the MATE ROV Competition. When not being productive, you may find Ruben running, watching Family Guy, or reading. He is currently working at QuickCarl (www.quickcarl.com), a tech startup based in San Diego. You can contact Ruben at ruben1@stanford.edu or www.rubenkrueger.com

 

 

 

Trash Talk Project

From the Haystack Rock Awareness Program:

Photo: Lisa Habecker

Photo: Lisa Habecker

The Haystack Rock Awareness Program has created a wearable art jewelry line crafted from marine debris named “Trash Talk,” intended to support our program and spark conversations that lead to more environmental stewardship.

Frequently, people ask how they can assist our program’s stewardship efforts beyond volunteering or donating financially. This new project is a great way anybody can help support us on their own time. Nearly every beach in the world has micro-plastic landfall. Participants in this project are invited to collect micro-plastics (small plastic trash that washes up on our beaches), and donate it to our program to be repurposed into wearable art jewelry.

Not into collecting beach debris? Not a problem! We are also accepting donations of old or broken jewelry that will be reused in these new pieces.

Micro-plastic collections and old, broken jewelry should be placed in a bag or container and left in the garbage bin labeled “Haystack Rock Awareness Program Marine Debris,” located at the back entrance of Cannon Beach City Hall next to the dumpster. In your bag, please include your contact information so we can send you a thank you and a small wearable bottle filled with some of the Marine Debris. One gallon of beach Debris is sufficient material to host 2-5 workshops, make over 30 pieces of jewelry or one 12×12 art piece.

Photo: Lisa Habecker

The funding received through this project supports HRAP’s ongoing efforts to provide high quality STEM, STEAM, and Citizen Science programs, and to spread awareness to a diverse multitude of visitors- positively impacting our community.

 

 

_____

The Haystack Rock Awareness Program (HRAP) is a stewardship and environmental education program in Cannon Beach, OR. For more information, visit http://www.ci.cannon-beach.or.us/hrap. For questions or comments about the Trash Talk project, contact Pooka Rice, Haystack Rock Awareness Program Outreach Coordinator at 503-436-8079 or lrice@ci.cannon-beach.or.us.

 

 

 

Family Engineering Events on the Coast

By Emily Townsend

Warrenton

Warrenton

Bringing families together, the Oregon Coast STEM Hub hosted a Family STEM Night at Warrenton Elementary on November 15. The Hub is one of 11 regional organizations that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The event was recreated down the coast that week in Toledo on November 16, and Coos Bay on November 17, reaching as many families and educators as possible. These events were a unique effort by the STEM Hub to bring professional development and family engagement into one fun-filled evening.  Educators arrived early to learn the rationale and method of hosting a STEM night in their home school, and then were able to observe and interact firsthand during the subsequent family event. Teachers from kindergarten through high school attended, all with a common goal in mind; student and family engagement in underserved subjects. “As a teacher, we are focused on reading, writing, and math,” explains Astoria teacher Kendal Long. “It leaves so little time for science, so nights like this introduce what there isn’t always enough time to expose students to in the classroom.”

Coos Bay

Coos Bay

The Oregon Coast STEM Hub serves schools from Astoria to Brookings in a partnership with Oregon State University, local community colleges, businesses, and nonprofits. It provides experiences for students and families to get excited and motivated about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.“We focus on educators so they can provide integrated, exciting, and contextual experiences for students,’ said Ruth McDonald of the STEM Hub. “We reach more students by being a resource for pre-K to college level classrooms.”

Warrenton

Warrenton

The speaker and host David Heil, author of Family Engineering, led the Family Engineering events. The goals of his program are to introduce engineering and science at an early age and to increase parents’ interest and ability to be involved in the learning, explaining that “we want to hit the sweet spot and start them early.”

McDonald agrees. “We all know interest starts in elementary; we need to lay a foundation.”

As for parents, David explains to teachers that they might see moms and dads shying away at first, but once they get comfortable, they dive right in. “It’s families together from start to finish” Heil explains. He has a goal for educators too, “…to walk out of here and say, ‘I can do that in my school’.”

Coos Bay

Coos Bay

Application of the pedagogy began once families began to arrive to the Family Engineering Night event. Everyone started with warm-up activities that encouraged 21st century skills like problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking.  Next, families were given larger STEM tasks to solve together.  “The hallmark of family engineering is teamwork,” said Heil.

The first task was to build the tallest tower out of chenille sticks. Heil explained, “We want everyone talking and designing, doing things they don’t always give themselves permission to do on their own time.”  This task’s difficulty was compounded with interruptions by Heil, with prompts such as “Now there were cutbacks and you lost resources, how does that affect your plan for the tallest tower?” Next came outsourcing which led to a ban on verbal communication, and last the families were told they were “short-handed” and had to finish the task with one hand behind their back.  After the success or failure of the towers, Heil led a discussion breaking down the challenge.

Toledo

Toledo

“Does (the loss of materials) ever happen in real life?” Heil asked the group.

“No!” yell the students to the delight of their parents, who know the reality of setbacks in the workplace.

Overall, the students learned more with the support of their parents and everyone left with a better understanding of engineering and science and how it applies to them.  When asked what they learned about engineering, the families responded, “It happens every day!”

 

 


Emily Townsend is an English Language Development teacher at Astor Elementary School in Astoria, OR. She participated in the November 15, 2016 “Family Engineering” professional development training and family event held at Warrenton Elementary. The Family Engineering series was held in Warrenton, Toledo and Coos Bay, and was made possible by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

Tribal Grant Supports STEM Camp

Congratulations to another Oregon Coast STEM Hub partner who has received funds to provide STEM education experiences for students living on the Oregon Coast. From the Oregon Coast Daily News:

Siletz Tribal Grant will Help Students Go To Earthquake Camp:

The Central Oregon Coast NOW Foundation is excited to announce that it was awarded a grant from the Siletz Tribal Charitable Fund of $1661.00 to be used by the Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Committee for its planned summer 2016 Earthquake Camp for girls.

Central Oregon Coast Chapter of NOW has an active STEM Committee, and its members are involved in a variety of activities throughout the year:

In addition to the Engineering Camp, the STEM committee also hopes to conduct a “Starry Night” astronomy camp for girls during the summer of 2016. Central Oregon Coast NOW has helped sponsor two girls robotics teams, and also the 2015 GEMS (Girls in Engineering and Marine Science) Camp. Some of the STEM committee members have served as mentors for the Newport Science Fair students, and as judges for the MATE ROV robotics competitions.

Read full article

As details about STEM summer camps and events becomes available they will be shared on the Oregon Coast STEM Hub website.

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Central Oregon Coast National Organization for Women is a partner in the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

Skill Set

Hatfield Marine Science Center’s Dr. Su Sponaugle shares how “girly” skills she learned years ago have played a part in shaping her science practices today.

 

st_blank_0

Today I applied what I learned in elementary school. The blanket stitch. I have a Ph.D., but the skill I used today came from something I learned at age 8.

 

 

Read more at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/feature-story/blankets-and-nets

Impact of Afterschool STEM Programs

AfterschoolSTEM

 

 

Samantha Stainburn published an article in Education Week today describing an Afterschool Alliance report which examined the impact of STEM-focused after-school programs on students who participate in them.

 

 

“The report’s authors find that engaging in activities like hands-on science experiments, computer modeling, and citizen science projects outside the school day increases students’ interest and engagement in science, knowledge of STEM careers, and for some, test scores in math and science.”

Read the full report