Kids in a Network Learning Science, Geography, GIS, Computational Thinking and all of that Jazz worked!!


Many people embrace what is called STEM at this time. There was SMET before there was STEM.

There was a time when science was pushed aside and people who dared to advocate it were not in the right political space. We suffered but continued the practice of good teaching.

We had our champions, and one of them was Dr. Robert Tinker of who got great funding for a number of revolutionary programs and projects and many of them were for K -12.

His projects were much needed to change teaching and learning .

More alphabet soup.

You may ask what is TERC?

For more than fifty years, TERC  introduced millions of students throughout the United States to the exciting and rewarding worlds of math and science learning. Led by a group of experienced, forward-thinking math and science professionals, TERC is an independent, research-based organization dedicated to engaging and inspiring all students through stimulating curricula and programs designed to develop the knowledge and skills they need to ask questions, solve problems, and expand their opportunities.


What is really important is that there was extensive broadening engagement and the vision that TERC and Robert Tinker had was an immersive imagining of a future in which learners from diverse communities engaged in creative, rigorous, and reflective inquiry as an integral part of their lives—a future where teachers and students alike are members of vibrant communities where questioning, problem solving, and experimentation are commonplace.

This ideational scaffolding worked.

One of the projects was the NGS Kids Network , standards-based, online science curriculum that allowed students from around the world to investigate topics and share their findings.

Students explored real-world subjects by doing exactly what scientists do: conducting experiments, analyzing data, and sharing results with peers.

You will remember the climate march and the scientists march. With Bob Tinker we marched with our fingers and minds exploring real world science and the ideas are still being used and referenced.

There are pieces of this work that are still relevant. There was an extensive set of resources for teachers at each topic.

You can explore the Unit TRASH here.

You can explore the topic “What’s in Our Water?” here.

Here is the background for water. 

You can explore SOLAR ENERGY here. It has been updated.


A National Geographic Summer Institute was where was introduced to me. I believe I met Dr. Tinker however, at the NSTA conference. or at the George Lucas Educational Foundation in a round table discussion.  There we learned about probes. The way we worked was revolutionary in science , and we true pioneers got some push back. We had Dr. Tinker as a resource and the information was free. The promise of the Internet for all has never happened , but if you could get on the Information Highway, well, Concord was there for you.




If you ever taught a National Geographic Kidsnetwork Program and did it well ,you know that it changed the face of teaching and learning. Here is a research report that explains the way in which it worked.

The National Geographic Kids Network

REFERENCE: TERC. (1990). The National Geographic Kids Network: Year 4 Final Annual Report. Cambridge, MA: Author.

In conjunction with the National Geographic Society, TERC created The National Geographic Kids Network as a resource for improving elementary science and geography instruction in classrooms around the world. Since its inception in 1986, more than a quarter of a million students in over 7,500 classrooms had then used the network to collaborate on science and geography projects ranging from the study of solar energy to acid rain.( old data)

The primary goal of the National Geographic Kids Network was to promote science and discovery in elementary classrooms by combining hands-on science, geography, and computer technologies with telecommunications activities.

GIS 1The topics were the beginning of real science study for many students.

The National Geographic Kids Network includes seven 8-week curriculum units focusing on “increasing the time spent on inquiry-oriented, hands-on science instruction, strengthening science process and data analysis skills, raising public awareness of the value and feasibility of appropriate science instruction, and publishing and widely disseminating curricular materials that further these goals.” While students research, collect, analyze, and share data with their peers they also problem solve and collaborate with students at other schools. In addition, the network also features a scientist who works with students electronically to evaluate their data, make comments, and offer suggestions. The seven 8-week units include:

  • Hello!  This was a special introductory unit that let us learn how to use project based learning and collaborate with other classes.
  • Solar Energy
  • Acid Rain
  • What Are We Eating?
  • What’s in Our Water?
  • Too Much Trash?
  • Weather in Action

The beginning unit was very special.

Students and teachers and community collaborated and shared , giving information, history, geography and data about where they lived. They got mail. This was a personalized way  , it was a pre-social media of talking with and learning with students in other parts of the world.

How excited my students were to link with a school in Moscow, Russia, or to figure out what animals were pets in some places of the world that we considered pests.



For those of us who used the units , the task of classroom management was quite different from that faced by teachers employing the traditional instructional methods of lecture, discussion, and seat work. Geography was a huge factor in the work. Sometimes there was application of the arts, and yes, there was purposeful reading and writing. The face of the working classroom was changed. Extensive resources were shared with teachers.

Students were involved in an inquiry process and reported back to a scientist who helped them analyze their data . There were geographical teams of students sharing information , and collecting data and sometimes telling their stories. I was a teacher of the Gifted, but I was able to use technology to transition into being a classroom teacher for all. Parents and community members were excited about meaningful  uses of technology.

With NGS Kidsnetwork, students spend the majority of their time working on their own or in small groups collecting and doing research.

Teachers often spend their time participating in projects as peers , with community interface of experts, parents helping with the data.




“A Teacher’s Essential Guide to Engaging in STEM Learning: Practice-Proven Projects and Programs.”

Community Outreach to Girls, at a Special Conference in Washington DC

In the nation's capitol, there was held a conference to share workforce ideas with girls

This is going to be an e-book. I am sharing the chapters as I develop them hoping for feedback and enrichment from interested others.

.Bonnie Bracey Sutton, Teacher Agent of Change

This is a difficult time for teachers , there is a ground swell for STEM , transformational teaching and new practices in all teaching involving media in the United States. There have been more than 22 major meetings to address the STEM problem the most important meeting being the:

The Convocation on Rising Above the Gathering Storm

National Academies Press, 2007  ( nothing much has happened in spite of this)

This  NASbook is on line free of charge for online use

In a world where advanced knowledge is widespread and low-cost labor is readily available, U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology have begun to erode. A comprehensive and coordinated federal effort is urgently needed to bolster U.S. competitiveness and pre-eminence in these areas. This congressionally requested report by a pre-eminent committee makes four recommendations along with 20 implementation actions that federal policy makers should take to create high-quality jobs and focus new science and technology efforts on meeting the nation’s needs, especially in the area of clean, affordable energy: 1) increase America’s talent pool by vastly improving K-12 mathematics and science education.

  1. )Sustain and strengthen the nation’s commitment to long-term basic research.3) Develop, recruit, and retain top students, scientists, and engineers from both the United States and abroad. 4) Ensure that the United States is the premier place in the world for innovation. Some actions will involve changing existing laws, while others will require financial support that would come from reallocating existing budgets or increasing them. Rising Above the Gathering Storm will be of great interest to federal and state government agencies, educators and schools, public decision makers, research sponsors, regulatory analysts, and scholars.

More »

Norman R. Augustine, Chair of the “Committee on Prospering the Global Economy of the 21st Century” that produced the influential 2005 National Academies report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, met with members of the NSB Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics during their first meeting, August 3 – 4, 2006. source

This is a difficult time for school systems, funds are limited, resources are stretched and professional development needs a recharge, a transformation.There is not a depth of knowledge about STEM at grass roots.

Online, teachers are still asking me what is STEM? The reason for transformational change has not gotten to the grass roots level. We know that everyone is not online. I also know that STEAM is the attempt to infuse the arts into STEM. I am a DaVinci teacher, always have and that is another chapter coming up. For those who cannot wait, go to the Exploratorium site. 

Most of the meetings did not involve teachers, but rather cast the blame on teachers. Many teachers are working in a culture of fear, intimidation and retaliation” and the gating caused by NCLB.

. This discussion will give credence to the search for change, provide referenced research and case studies of good practices, and new resources. It is a loving guide to what works. Teachers can help save our schools and help enrich the community by involving citizens in the transformational change.

Computers and “connected” mobile devices may be ubiquitous, but there are still many people who do not know how to turn on a laptop, create an email account or open Internet Explorer, says Stuart Freiman, director of the R.I. Economic Development Corporation’s Broadband Rhode Island project.

Some children own the tools to transform their thinking and learning.

The notion of the digital divide truly exists,” said Freiman, who estimates 30 to 35 percent of Americans do not use the Internet. “As we move into the 21st century, that’s going to be more and more important in every aspect of our lives: access to health care, the government and public-safety issues.” Teachers know what reseachers get paid big money to find out. Many learning communities are not connected .Sadly the groups that used to be teacher advocacy groups are turning commercial and becoming a part that widens the digital divide.

We have a lot of people who are NOT connected in communities. Here is a state model that was developed to help people in Iowa understand the problem.

 SHIFT HAPPENS – a media presentation A State Model

Here is an application of those ideas toward state policies.

Iowa, Did You Know?8/4/2011Once again XPLANE | Dachis Group has teamed up with Dr. Scott McLeod of Iowa State University to create a thought-provoking video. The brand-new “Iowa, Did You Know …

Research is a component of this work, citations, case studies urls, and references will be a part of the last chapter for reference, grant writing, ideas that teachers use to prepare presentations.

These teachers, and administrators can share with school boards, and invite the community to help them with STEM..The ideas are important because many teachers are without broadband and cannot search fully for the resources they need. The work that is being shared has been vetted by teacher national organizations or the National Academy of Sciences. Most of the many, many papers, books and research ideas are not about practice.

There is a lack of known resources or knowledgenetworks,for many US teachers based on budget difficulties , and there are teachers who have little or no professional development in how to effectively use new media. Much of the instruction for the use of new media is online and those who are uncomfortable, cannot rely on the sources to give them the help they need for academic reasons. The lack of online content access for low-income and underserved American’s is one of the digital divide’s frontiers. 

Prior Resource

The resources in this chapter are the kind of support, help and sharing that Marc Prensky talked about in his recent book. He did the hard work of helping teachers organize their practices to prepare for change..He created a wonderful road map to getting to the nuts and bolts of what kinds of essential changes, behavior modification and partnering that can happen to provide transformational learning. There are some initiatives widely scattered around the Internet.

There are about 19 documents on various subjects that are on line at the National Academy of Sciences

    STEM Education Innovation & America’s Economic Success

Depend on the awareness of the problem, change and creating connectedideas in learning communities

Important Ingredients to Come

  • Engaging and Broadening Engagement in STEM for Underserved and underexposed populations
  • Successful Models for Innovating Change in STEM Education
  • A First Look at the New Science Education Framework
  • A look at Common Core Standards and their significance
  • Educational Organizations and Connected Communities
  • Workforce Readiness,Career Pathways

Legislation Introduced to Fund Nontraditional STEM Programs

Congress is currently considering legislation that would provide funding for nontraditional programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM. The Innovation Inspiration School Grant Program is intended to broaden student access and interest in STEM careers in order to grow the pipeline for a globally competitive workforce. We must demystify the STEM problem.

The initiative would provide competitive grants to districts and high schools, giving priority to rural, urban, and low-performing schools, or those that serve low income students. The Innovation Inspiration School grants would fund nontraditional STEM programs, like robotics, in high schools. Districts would be required to partner with the private sector for 50% matching funds and to recruit STEM mentors to serve as role models.

The bill, H.R. 2247, was recently introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Rep. James Langevin (D-RI)For more than four years now the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, originally passed by the Johnson administration in 1965, has been overdue for congressional reauthorization. That’s due in no small part to provisions in the act’s latest incarnation, 2001’s much-maligned No Child Left Behind act.

No Child Left Behind is still with us.(since President Barack Obama’s announcement last month that he would begin allowing states to individually opt out of some of NCLB’s requirements, more than half of U.S. states have taken the offer, with 27 now either in the process or strongly pushing for such an opt out.)