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Enjoy this week`s INSIDE VIEW article from Pierce Middle School in Milton and add your thoughts to the discussion. Read about the Pierce Middle School project experience and consider -- how have you built cross-curriculum collaboration? Through this work, have you found other experts or enthusiasts that you did not anticipate when you initially planned the project? If so, how have you included them in your work? Sign into the forum at or go directly to the article at

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Posted by: Christie Chiappetta | Pierce Middle School | Milton Public Schools

Attached photo

Picture above: Students observing the transit of Mercury this week in computer class.

The impact of Creativity and Innovation grant on our STEM program at the Pierce Middle School has extended well beyond the Mars Rover robotics project we initially envisioned.  When the project was conceived, we planned for collaboration that would occur through working with the Christa McAuliffe center to develop and deliver astronomy professional development to teachers in our district and plan a field trip for all 7th graders to the center for the Voyage to Mars program.  What we did not anticipate was the partnership that would develop between the science department and the computer science instructor at the Pierce Middle School.  Once our computer teacher, Greg Forge began participating in the professional development experiences and the process of planning to implement the robotics component in his 7th grade computer classes, a much larger number of cross curricular connections were made.  We had an astronomy enthusiast in our building and the science department never knew it!

Fast forward to year two of implementation: Mr. Forge is now attending the science department meetings during our professional development days and working with us to brainstorm ways to connect science and technology.  This September, there was a total lunar eclipse that was visible in the Northeast.  Mr. Forge used this as an opportunity to kick off a unit that built upon the science content students had learned the previous year through the astronomy unit and their experiences at the Christa McAuliffe center.  Students began by learning about mathematical illusions before making the connection to moon illusions.  Using an online resource, they were able to find information for the moon rise and location of the supermoon.  All of this information was used as the context for a powerpoint project.   Mr. Forge also teaches his 8th grade computer students how to use the Google suite, including Google Earth.  As a follow up to the lunar eclipse project, students used a variety of tools including Google Compass and the Time slider function to simulate and observe the sunrise as a reference point for observing the moon.  Students then found a location where they could visit to observe the moon rising.  They could extend the experience by completing a field component viewing the moon from their identified location.  As a result of this work, students have the opportunity to build upon their experiences in 7th grade as the content spirals into our 8th grade computer electives as well.

The professional development planned through the grant brought a group of teachers together that included elementary staff as well as our middle school teachers.  This rekindled enthusiasm for astronomy inspired a local education foundation to fund an inflatable planetarium.  This new planetarium has lessons and star canisters that can be used for humanities lessons as well K-12 science classes.  For our second year of implementation we expanded the content focus to better accommodate the new science standards by including the Earth, moon and sun system and space beyond our solar system.  To support this new content, we planned astronomy professional development that was content-based as well as opportunities for teachers to plan how they would use the Starlab.  As part of the content professional development, Mr. Forge  facilitated a session on using Ipad apps to tour the universe and look at different aspects of space from a variety of perspectives.

While computer teachers have traditionally been on their own, rather than being part of a department, this project has helped the science department leverage  an incredibly valuable resource that has been among us all along!  Perhaps more than anything else, this initiative has helped the Pierce school community move beyond merely talking about STEM to actually executing an integrated and intentional set of experiences for our students.

Through this work, have you found other “experts” or enthusiasts that you did not anticipate when you initially planned the project?  If so, how have you included them in your work?


- Christie Chiappetta 5/10/2016 10:18:58 PM


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