Extending STEM locally and beyond—Inquiry, Interest &Identity
Tumblehome regularly offers workshops and opportunities for diverse students in and out of school. These have included a yearlong partnership with an afterschool program at a Worcester, MA middle school, with weekly workshops relating to two Galactic Academy of Science books the kids were reading at the same time. Most attendees were non-native English speakers.
We have also offered a day-long workshop on bridges at the Brockton Public Library, and we are now offering an interactive lecture series called Tumbleocity. The three first sessions, each attracting 50-100+ participants, have focused on the space station, the dinosaur origins of birds, and the search for life on Mars. Other partners and sponsors of these lectures include NAACP and the Christa McAuliffe Center at Framingham State College.
In addition, we have given away hundreds of books in partnership with First Book and Reader 2 Reader. These books go primarily to schools on Indian reservations and in communities recovering from natural disasters. Through a generous grant from the Libra Foundation, we were able to give their choice of ten science books to every middle school library in Maine.
We have an ongoing interest in how story paired with activities can help young people develop STEM interest and identity. Whenever possible, we follow up programs with questionnaires meant to probe these questions – in Worcester, Boston, Maine, San Francisco, Beijing and beyond.
COVID and Data Literacy
Working Science Education Solutions, Tumblehome developed and illustrated a new book, The Case of the Covid Crisis and created data exploration activities using Concord Consortium’s CODAP data tool. The book takes the middle school protagonists on time travel adventures to learn about epidemics such as measles, the 1918 flu, smallpox, Nipah, and Ebola, in order to help readers gain perspective on the current outbreak. We also created podcasts of characters discussing data to accompany each chapter.
This project built on several materials we had already created, including a card game showing viral spread, a game-like NetLogo simulation of R0, and a free downloadable infographic about COVID. It also is built on our existing ten-book series, the Galactic Academy of Science.
The Boston Museum of Science offered the book club online over nine weeks in late spring, with 40 young people, mostly in grades 5 and 6, attending. We offered it again through the Maine School of Science and Mathematics as a one-week intensive, with 15 students, mostly in grades 7 and 8, attending. For fall 2021, five Imagine Science sites around the country (Dallas, Houston, Denver, Omaha, New York City) will offer the COVID book and data club experience afterschool. All of these programs have been offered voluntarily and at no cost to attendees. Early data suggests that participants leave the club more interested in COVID, more confident in examining data, more interested in data and epidemiology careers, and less anxious about the virus.
Currently we have funding from STEMNext to pursue this project further, and are seeking NSF and other funding to expand this book and program, adapt it to different audiences and setting, and research its contribution to students’ science identity and interest.
Get Ready for AI: Artificial Intelligence for K12
Tumblehome is excited about the new nationwide interest in developing educational standards as well as materials/approaches to help children understand the potential and principles behind Artificial Intelligence. From publishing a middle grade novel about AI we have moved to creating programs and teaching materials. In Winter of 2021, we have planned the release of a middle school-focused book, Get Ready for AI while also preparing and testing AI experiences for kids. These have ranged from an exercise on facial recognition done with elementary students in Boston and Weston, MA, to work on evolutionary and clade analysis tested with visiting high school students from Beijing, to workshops at AAAI (the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence), and NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) national meeting and district-wide professional development at the Waterford School District of Connecticut.
Currently, we are working with partners at University of Virginia and FHI360 to develop an AI project tailored to middle school girls, which will offer free curriculum and free starter coding programs for digital distribution. We are planning to apply for NSF and other funding to support this major effort.