Regents Center for Early Developmental Education
[This story is re-posted to mark the selection of the Ramps and Pathways Program of the Regents Center for Early Developmental Education as a Scale-Up.]
Now that you are familiar with Dr. Beth VanMeeteren, whose story we featured on Wednesday, let’s take a look at early childhood resources at UNI. The Regents Center for Early Developmental Education and CEE STEM are full of opportunities and resources for UNI students and Iowa educators. The Regents’ Center offers high quality professional development to childcare providers, child development center directors, preschool educators and directors, and K-3 teachers and administrators. Topics within professional development include literacy, social development and conflict resolution, chemistry through cooking, physics, STEM, and mathematical development.
Beth VanMeeteren, Director of the Early Childhood Center, discussed a few resources that the Early Childhood Center provides. The first resource is Professional Development, “Professional development has been popular throughout the state of Iowa and Midwest as well as throughout many other states such as California, Utah, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia, Washington DC, Alabama, and Alaska as well as China, Japan, Brazil, and Mexico. The Regents’ Center is becoming well-renowned for its professional development and curriculum for early childhood STEM education.”
The second resource Beth discussed is the CEE STEM Center as a physical space for students and teachers to work and learn in. “There are many universities and colleges that list STEM centers on their website, but exist in name only or are represented by a one-occupant office. Very few devote an actual physical space with materials for a STEM center where teachers and preservice teachers can go to work with materials and learn how to be quality STEM educators. The Regents’ Center space offers a conference room for faculty meetings, staff development, or curriculum development. We also have the beginnings of a teacher maker space where educators are encouraged to browse and explore materials, and a professional library to design curricula specific to student needs. We have examples of math games for teachers and UNI teacher education students to peruse and consider for classroom and instructional use.”
The Ramps and Pathways program is a specific program available to in-service and preservice teachers who want to engage their younger students in STEM. “Ramps and Pathways is truly a STEM curriculum. As children Engineer and build their own Technology of ramp systems, they engage in mathematics (spatial thinking, seriation, number, geometry…) and encounter the laws of physics as they try to move an object in a specific way (science). In addition, they observe properties of objects (wood, glass, metal, plastic, round, cylinder, light, heavy etc.) and how those properties affect movement.”
This program can help teachers learn how to engage children in engineering rather than teaching children about engineering, “Ramps and Pathways is an extraordinary way to engage children in engineering rather than teaching children about engineering. I’ve rarely had to provide challenges to children as they pose their own problems. I have photos of a child that designed a structure that moved a marble 39 feet in a 3x3 foot square of space! Schools that resist the impulse to focus only on what the state is testing and encourage their pre-kindergarten – second grade teachers to include STEM throughout their day can allow their students a strong start that will last by providing them with a robust, well-rounded, and rich curriculum such as Ramps and Pathways.”
Check these programs out for yourself and see how they can assist you throughout your education at UNI.
Looking back, looking forward
Fall 2016 was a lot of fun, with a lot of STEM events across the UNI campus and beyond. The Semester End Special puts together a few happy memories in frames. For those of you, who may not have been there at these events, good news. A number of events are lined up for Spring 2017. Happy holidays!!!
Thinking outside the box
Haley Osborn has always known that she wants to be a teacher. Until recently, though, she was in a dilemma over what she wanted to teach.
“I was pushed towards mathematics when I was in high school,” Haley recalls. “When I came to UNI, I was originally a Math Education major.”
However, after taking a few courses in Math Education, she started to reconsider her plans. “I realized it wasn’t for me,” she says.
So, she started weighing her options and, courtesy of UNI, she had quite a few. “I settled for All Science Teaching as my best option,” she says.
UNI has provided Haley with “an amazing experience.” She was drawn to UNI initially because of the reputation of the College of Education. On her first visit, she found out that there was more to UNI than its academic reputation.
“I loved the sense of community that everyone on the campus shared,” she recalls.
Once the classes began, she loved UNI even more. “The professors are so willing to help in every way that they possibly can,” she says. “And I have made so many friends that will last me a lifetime.”
It’s not been all fun, though.
“The undergraduate coursework has been just that: work,” Haley says. “Most science classes are hard but, if you put in the time and effort, and get help from the professors, you will do well.”
Putting in the time has not been a problem for her in anyway. “I find science so interesting that it is easy for me to want to put in the time,” she explains.
However, her most favorite class so far, interestingly, has not been on science.
“Although ‘Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners’ with Deborah Gallagher is not a science class, it often pushed me to think outside the box and how I could do something unconventionally or differently to help students,” she says. “This thought can also be applied to many science subjects in the field and in the classroom.”
Haley plans to teach in Iowa for at least five years after she graduates from UNI. “I will then see where teaching takes me.”
At present, though, she finds very little time between her classes and studies, and the different work that she is involved in.
“I am part of the TC/TK security team, and also the property manager for my sorority, Alpha Delta Pi,” she says. “I also work part-time at Maurice’s, a women’s clothing store.”
She also volunteers at Ronald McDonald House Charities through her sorority and the STEM Ambassadors program.
Haley loves being a STEM Ambassador.
“My friend joined last year and told me about it,” she says. “I have loved every moment since I joined. I love working with kids of any age and seeing them excited about learning and getting to share my experiences as a student with others.”
So, free time is not something that comes by too often but when it does, she loves to spend it with friends and family.
Haley feels very strongly about STEM and her advice to would-be STEM majors is very simple: “Go for it.”
“Never think that you are not good enough or not smart enough for a field that you want to go into,” she says. “School is going to be hard but if you put in the work, it is worthwhile in the end.”
Feeling ever so strongly about science
Jessica Wayson used to hate science. However, it all changed during her junior year in high school; her chemistry teacher helped her see science “in a completely new light.”
As Jessica began to realize how science formed an integral part of her everyday life, she went from hating science to loving science. Soon, she was so passionate about science that she wanted to become a science teacher.
Jessica didn’t want to choose one particular branch of science over another, though. “I loved how each builds upon the other and wanted to have a greater understanding of the discipline as a whole,” she recalls.
So, she chose to major in All Science Teaching at the University of Northern Iowa. UNI was, in her own words, “a no-brainer choice” — not only did it offer a bachelor’s degree in All Science Teaching but its education program was among the best in the region.
The UNI experience has so far been incredible for Jessica.
“The sheer number of opportunities to travel around the country, performing in speech, listening to research presentations, and presenting my own research, has made it a wild ride,” she says. “I have had the opportunity to meet many amazing individuals and participate in a wide variety of activities.”
At the same time, the undergraduate coursework has been an eye-opener for Jessica. “Both my major (science teaching) and minor (communication-theatre teaching) courses have made me consider things in a new light,” she adds.
“I have taken a wide variety of classes from Applied Organic and Biochemistry to Argumentation and Debate to Robotics to Directing. My coursework has provided a wide range of experiences for me.”
Her most favorite class so far has been Classroom Assessment. “It has caused such a mindset shift for me,” she explains. “I had a great professor who changed how I saw assessment (for the better).”
UNI has also provided Jessica with diverse research experience.
“I have had the opportunity to participate in science education research with Dr. Sarah Boesdorfer and Dr. Dawn Del Carlo since August 2014,” she says. “We first looked at how research experiences affect teacher beliefs and practices, and now look at the effect of professional development on teacher practices.”
She presented her research at the 2016 International Conference of the Association for Science Teacher Education in Reno, Nevada.
Jessica has also been on the Biogeochemical Evolution of the Atmosphere (BETA) Project with Dr. Joshua Sebree, Dr. Alexa Sedlacek, and Dr. Xinhua Shen since summer 2015.
“The project sounded really cool when I first heard about it; so, I applied,” she recalls.
“I set up the BETA website in summer and subsequently worked as the webmaster in fall while being a research assistant to both Dr. Sebree and Dr. Sedlacek.”
Jessica worked with the aerosol chambers and scanning electron microscopes in Dr. Sebree’s laboratory, and cleaned rocks and created samples for analysis in Dr. Sedlacek’s.
She also presented findings of the BETA Project at the 50th annual meeting of the North-Central chapter of the Geological Society of America and the 128th annual meeting of the Iowa Academy of Sciences in spring 2016.
“I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to research this year,” she says. “I have been working as just the webmaster so that I can really focus on the public outreach side of the project.”
Jessica also works at UNITix, the ticket offices on campus, as a student supervisor.
With so much on her plate, she rarely has any free time but when she does, she spends it on speech preparation and practice. “As both a performer and team president, I spend time preparing performances and competing around the country throughout the year,” she says.
Once she graduates, Jessica plans to teach science, preferably in middle schools in Iowa.
“Along with teaching science, I plan to use my minor to be a speech coach and, possibly, to direct plays at the school where I will work,” she adds.
Jessica has three words for students aspiring to major in STEM fields: “Try it out.”
“STEM subjects are so interesting and provide such a unique outlook on the world that even if you end up switching to a different major, you will still benefit from being exposed to the STEM coursework,” she says.
The best change of plan ever
Kaleb Luse originally wanted to major in aeronautical engineering because he was an avionics technician in the military. Moreover, he thought it would be cool to tell his friends, “It’s not rocket science... O wait, it is!”
He had to change his plans, though. There was a change in his base’s mission and, subsequently, his assignment in the military.
“I ended up working with computers,” Kaleb recalls. “So, I decided to change my major to computer science, which, I thought, would better reflect my new job.”
The change, as it turned out, was a blessing in disguise.
“As soon as I started taking classes I knew that this was the major I was supposed to be in,” Kaleb says. “I enjoyed programming and learning about the various components of computer science was interesting and engaging.”
Enrollment at the University of Northern Iowa also turned out to be the “best choice” that he could have made.
“I actually chose UNI for what most would consider poor reasons,” he says. “I wanted to stay in Iowa and had to go to a public university.”
Kaleb didn’t have any favorite among the three big universities in the state but was leaning towards UNI because his best friend had chosen to come here. “Eventually I grew apart from my best friend but realized that UNI was the best choice I could have made,” he says.
He believes he has been able to pursue opportunities at UNI that he may not have had elsewhere. For example, he says, his research with model trains made him aware of his passion for embedded systems and artificial intelligence (AI).
Kaleb also enjoys working with the computer science faculty. “They are incredibly approachable,” he says. “It’s nice to have a faculty that teaches full-time as opposed to the research colleges where you may have a professor who teaches once every five years because they have to in order to continue receiving grant or something like that.”
Kaleb is also a business major and finds his coursework there not as challenging as it is in computer science. “I find my business classes a lot easier than my CS classes but they are harder to find the motivation to study for,” he says.
He enjoys any class that requires programming but would rate the Real-time Embedded Systems and Intelligent Systems as his two most-favorite classes. The two classes also featured projects that he found most interesting.
He programmed an application to control a model trainset in the Real-time Embedded Systems class. He also developed an artificially intelligent application in his Intelligent Systems class to run regressions on data.
These classes and others have helped Kaleb develop his skills to conduct his own projects. “I am currently building another artificially intelligent program to play an online card game,” he says. “I have also done plenty of research in both my economics field and artificial intelligence.”
He doesn’t have much free time outside of his “classes, organizations, jobs, and random other things,” and this summer was “the closest thing” he had to free time. So, what did he do with his free time? He wrote the code for the artificially intelligent application for his online card game.
Kaleb worked as a resident assistant in Noehren Hall for two years and enjoyed the experience. “The people on the campus are really friendly,” he says.
This summer, he did an internship in Pennsylvania with the defense contractor Lockheed Martin. He is a member of the Air National Guard and works there as a system administrator.
He also volunteers for Phi Sigma Pi in its service events such as “going to the boys and girls club, hosting spaghetti suppers for community members in need, creating food and clothing drives, and working with organizations like the Red Cross.”
Kaleb has recently signed up as a STEM Ambassador. “I really enjoy my major and am very passionate about what I do and I wanted a way to share that passion with someone else who might also have an interest in what I do,” he says.
He wants to work as a software engineer once he gets his bachelor’s degree but hopes to continue with his education and get a master’s degree.
“I have been applying to a lot of different tech companies out in Silicon Valley like Google, Apple, and Facebook,” Kaleb says. “To work for Google as a software engineer will be my dream job.”
In the long run, though, he wants to start his own business. “After 10 years in the industry, I’d like to utilize my business degree and open a business that does consulting for other businesses, companies that look for ways to benefit from AI applications,” he says.
Kaleb believes STEM majors are difficult but engaging, and his advice for those who are interested in STEM is to pursue their interest with passion.
“You can work on and study what interests you, college and life will be a whole lot easier, not easy but easier,” he says.
Kaleb also believes it is natural for someone signing up for Computer Science to “feel overwhelmed by the fact that some people around you seem to know everything.”
“I remember being a freshman and feeling so out of place in my major because everyone around me seemed to have experience with computers and coding,” he says. “I knew nothing.”
However, knowing nothing worked to his advantage in the long run.
“As it turned out, many of them had picked up poor techniques and found it very hard to unlearn those techniques,” Kaleb says. “They may have also thought that they didn’t have to learn the basics over again and thus missed out on very important topics that built onto later things.”