Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus is less than a mile from Barclay Elementary. Over the years, the powerhouse university has hosted programs and helped pay for upgrades at the nearby public elementary school. Now, Hopkins is becoming even more involved, with a new plan to help transform Barclay into the city’s first elementary school with a STEM focus.
Parents are willing to do just about anything to help their children succeed. Whether it’s athletics, art, or music, we spend thousands of dollars every year helping our kids become the star quarterback, the lead in the play, or the featured soloist in the concert.
But what about math?
Just like organizations that serve to enhance a child’s sports skills, artistic ability or musical talent, Mathnasium attracts gifted STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) students and helps them master math. All of the instructors at Mathnasium are highly competent up to or beyond calculus.
“We have the brain power to help any student looking to take their math competency to the next level,” says Jim Trexler, Center Director of Mathnasium of Roland Park. “About 30 percent of our kids are working beyond their grade level, we expect that trend to continue.”
While other little kids spent their weekends watching cartoons, Garrison Forest senior Katherine Paseman focused on designing a balsa wood bridge as part of Destination Imagination’s bridge-making competition. She and her fellow teammates placed third—in the globe.
Fast forward about nine years to find Paseman entrenched in another contest measuring young people’s creativity and genius, the Intel Science Talent Search. In this, the most prestigious science research competition in the nation for high school seniors, Paseman was named one of only 21 semi-finalists from Maryland; in all, 1,794 applicants entered the competition. Her project? “A New Model Relating Hemoglobin, Hematocrit, and Optical Density.”
“In order for the device to work, we need a mathematical model of how light interacts with whole blood. We create one by extending existing equation-based models using intuitions from 3D geometry,” Paseman said.
Super-teens—those whose achievements reveal an extreme level of intelligence, focus, and perseverance—always make me scratch my head in wonder. Paseman is one of those head-scratching sorts of young women. When she started explaining her research project to me, she spit out the words hemoglobin and hematocrit so fast I had to ask her to slow down. From what I eventually was able to gather, Paseman is developing a special type of hemometer (a device used to measures a blood’s hemoglobin, a protein that offers clues to many medical conditions) by using light, instead of drawing blood. Don’t ask me how.
I may not fully understand how Paseman envisions analyzing patient’s blood by shining light on their skin as opposed to pricking it with a needle. But beyond this incredibly cutting-edge diagnostic methodology that Paseman is developing—the seed of which was planted in her as a young girl when her mother experienced repeated dizzy spells that turned out to be due to low hemoglobin levels, and which she continued to cultivate most recently as she traveled to India in December 2013 with Hopkins engineering researchers to test several models of non-invasive blood analysis—what I really wanted to know was this: How does a seemingly ordinary girl like Paseman, who loves to dance and sing and is prone to giggling, possess such profound intellectual curiosity, when so many girls today continue to underperform in science and math and to enter STEM (science technology engineering math) fields at a depressingly low rate, especially compared to their male peers?
As I probed Paseman about her background, I began to grasp how she has become the confident young budding scientist she is today. Parents of young girls, you may want to lean in.
Recently Principal Rebecca Malone was asked to work up an article about the school year at St. Francis of Assisi School. ‘Piece of cake’ thought the staff. It is typically a tally of new additions, old loves, and a real sense of collaboration on our new programs such as the International Baccalaureate and the 1:1 ipad initiative in Middle School. And not just collaboration in the school, but with our community members, too. So we sat down to begin work on this newsletter with a very specific focus: all highlights of the school year. We began by looking over photos that would best illustrate these highlights. Photos of Stem Club, the Race for Education, the MLK prayer service, our new ipads…so many wonderful photos, and so many wonderful moments. We had a great afternoon over coffee perusing them and saying “Oh! This one” and “We have to have that one!” and, “Oh! This one, too!” But as we collected and marked them for inclusion we realized that the true highlight of the school year is our students. Fresh, inquisitive, eager. Thoughtful and reflective. Passionate, hardworking and curious about the world… And looking at their shining faces we fall in love all over again. As we start a new year each one of these students adds to our school life and experience. This year, as with all school years, will include both innovation and continuity.
And so we proudly present the greatest SFA Highlight of this new school year: our children.
St. Francis of Assisi School
3617 Harford Road
Baltimore MD 21218
Sure, the bootleg t-shirt vendors of Baltimore are going to be doing pretty good business selling all sorts of Ravens merch over the next couple of weeks. But say you want a job that has a bit more staying power — well, then, Baltimorean, I’m happy to report that you’re in luck.
Baltimore’s two most-booming economic sectors are education and STEM (science/technology/engineering/mathematics), so yesterday’s announcement — that Johns Hopkins has been awarded a $7.4 million grant over 5 years to improve STEM education in Baltimore’s public elementary schools — is both totally inspiring and kind of a no-brainer.