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Gunn High’s ‘STEM Slam’—The Coolest Homework Project Ever?

Meg Omainsky, the Gunn High teacher librarian, started the ‘STEM Slam’ competition to help make science and math fun, and teach students how to use the skills in everyday life.

In this age of academic stress, many parents, teachers and experts are calling for less “busywork” homework, and more thoughtful, engaging projects and assignments that really spark students’ interest, teaching them how to think creatively and apply skills taught in school to everyday life.

Meg Omainsky, teacher librarian, hit one out of the park when she dreamt up the idea for the “STEM Slam” competition. In fact, experts thought it was such a fun and innovative idea, they awarded her top honors at the most recent STEMposium.

“I entered the STEMposium competition, [sponsored by the] Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, for this idea for the creative use of technology in the teaching of STEMS, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math skills," said Omainsky. "So, out of 130 submissions, there were five winners, and I was one of the five for my idea for the ‘STEM Slam,’ so that was super cool.”

Today, Gunn High School is hosting the first ever online STEM Slam competition, and there are just a few days left for students and their teacher partners to enter.

What is STEM, you ask? The acronym STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The idea behind the STEM Slam is for a student to pair up with a teacher and design a creative, funny and zany way to use STEM skills in everyday life, and then to make a humorous, three-minute video about it. The videos are then uploaded to YouTube.com, and the community is invited to view the videos and vote for their favorite.

The winning teacher/student pair will each walk away with a brand new iPad 2.

“The idea with ‘STEM Slam’ is to create a platform where the STEM learning of our students can be celebrated,” Omainsky said. “We do stuff like that for American Idol for singing and So You Think You Can Dance? for dancing, but what if we had an entertaining, big platform where the STEM learning of our students could be celebrated in that way—if we made it entertaining enough?”

Click on the video above to watch a YouTube video of Omainsky and Gunn students talking about what the STEM Slam is.

The project also helps to foster connectedness between students and teachers, which studies show helps reduce social, emotional and academic stress, and helps students feel more supported in school.

The deadline for a student and his or her teacher partner to enter their video is this Friday evening, June 3 at midnight. For more information, a complete description of the project and the rules, visit www.stemslam.com.

Ryan Teves May 31, 2011 at 03:36 PM
This is exactly what homework should be... rather than 1-1,000,000 odd. Homework should be work that can't be done within the walls of a classroom... and this is precisely what the above group has come up with. congrats! Ryan Teves author of "In Defense of the American Teen."
Carol Gilbert May 31, 2011 at 05:22 PM
This is just great! The things that students study in high school do have meaning, but so often that gets loss in a morass of memorization, regurgitation, and boredom. Keep up the good work!
Jennifer van der Kleut May 31, 2011 at 11:11 PM
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Ryan and Carol! Be sure to stay tuned, we will be letting the community know when voting on the STEM Slam videos begins! Meg Omainsky will also be hosting a launch party/screening event of STEM Slam videos in the fall.

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