Dr. Gina Cherkowski recognized as Alberta Women Entrepreneurs’ Emerging Innovator for 2018

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STEM Learning Lab’s own Dr. Gina Cherkowski was honoured this week as the recipient of Alberta Women Entrepreneurs’ Emerging Innovator award during their 2018 Celebration of Achievement and Entrepreneur Awards. The annual AWE Awards, held on Wednesday, April 25, recognize women who have made a significant contribution to the business community in Alberta.

The Emerging Innovator award recognizes an entrepreneur who has built an innovation-based business and who has achieved early success with strong market potential.

Gina is known internationally as an educational game changer on a mission to ensure all students have access to high quality STEM learning experiences. “Our world today is technology-rich,” said Dr. Cherkowski. “I believe all kids can, and should, be proficient in math and STEM fields so they’re ready to take on the challenges and opportunities in front of them.”

“We believe outstanding women deserve to be celebrated,” shared Marcela Mandeville, CEO, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs. “The recipients of this year’s awards have made impactful contributions to their communities and Alberta’s economy, and we are proud to recognize them as business role models and inspiring members of our community.”

“Small and medium sized businesses are essential to driving our economy forward and the diversity of this year’s finalists showcases what a world class entrepreneurial centre Alberta has become,” said Teresa Clouston, Executive Vice President, ATB Business & Agriculture. “This year’s winners are each helping to grow our province in their own unique way and ATB is proud to support them and other female entrepreneurs in partnership with AWE.”

We would also like to celebrate the three amazing women who were also recognized during the AWE Awards:

Celebration of Achievement Award Recipient: Eveline Charles, CEO, Eveline Charles Hair Salons and Day Spas

AWE Upsurge Award Recipient: Amanda Hamilton, Founder and Creative Director, Amanda Hamilton Design

AWE Emerging Award Recipient: Sylvia Cheverie, Owner, Chartier


Dr. Cherkowski named to the Executive Board of C21 Canada

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STEM Learning Lab’s own Dr. Cherkowski is named to the Executive Board of C21 Canada: Canadians for 21st Century Learning and Innovation.

C21 Canada is a national, not for profit organization that advocates for 21st Century models of learning in education. The goal of C21 Canada is to witness an accelerated pace of 21st competencies, instructional practices, and digital resources and services being integrated into Canada’s learning systems. C21 Canada is a unique blend of national education associations and knowledge sector businesses united in their belief that 21st Century models of learning must be adopted in public education on an urgent basis to position Canadians for economic, social and personal success in the high skills, knowledge and innovation based economy.

C21 Canada and its members provide collaborative vision and support to help Canadian education organizations enhance learning in the foundation areas of literacy, numeracy and science while infusing 21st Century skills (creative problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, personal development, global citizenship and digital competency) into content, and instructional and assessment practices.

For more information, go to



Girls and Robotics Camp

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I got to spend this week with Hillary Clinton, Taylor Swift, and Bruno Mars.  Hillary gave an amazing speech, while Bruno did a headstand and Taylor “shook it off.”  Also, there was a cameo by Queen Beyonce herself.  This amazing experience was created by 8 wonderful girls ages 8-15 during a Robotics camp.

As a scientist, I often approach robots as gears and motors governed by an all-powerful script.  Through the combination of logic, physics, and moving parts, something beautiful is created.  I feel connected to the problem I’m solving.  In the classroom, students don’t often connect to the learning.  When solving a mathematical problem, students don’t develop a caring relationship with each number.   But what if they did?  How would the learning experience change?

JD is a humanoid robot created by EZ Robots.  During the week of camp the girls learned how to build and configure JD.  They also programed JD to greet people, have conversations and dance.  All the mathematics, physics, coding, spatial and visual skills gained during this week proved that every single member of this group has a place in the technical world and as a future innovator.   But that did not eclipse some of the other strengths that were gained in this time.

From the moment the robots were put together, these girls demonstrating caring and nurturing.  The robots were new friends, they immediately had a personality.  When being configured, the robot lets out a buzzing sound when any of the servos are stressed.  The girls would respond to them as a parent does a child.  The physical problem of configuring the motors to have minimal stress became about making their friends comfortable.  Getting a robot to move involves some very high level math transformation skills.  It made me think of my dreaded geometry class.

I always had difficulty translating shapes into different spaces.  I remember the tests where we were given graph paper and had to translate shapes into different spaces.  I never got the right answer.  That shaped my attitude that I was a failure at visual and spatial reasoning.

However, if the girls could not get a movement to work at first, or if their robot fell (or in one case decapitated itself), they picked the robot up, gave it a quick hug, and went back to trying.  They developed resilience towards the frustration that arises when things don’t go the way you want.  They were able to look at why something didn’t work and find a solution.  They demonstrated critical thinking.

This resilience is needed in order to find success and satisfaction.  If coders did not plow through the frustration of bugs, this blog would not exist, nor would the internet.  This camp showed me how we can use STEM education as a platform to  build a future of innovative, risk-taking, and resilient citizens.


STEM Learning Lab Featured In The Calgary Herald

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Thanks to STEM Learning Lab, a handful of Calgary schools are looking at robots as new tool for teaching math and science!

It’s no secret — most kids hate math. But what if playing with robots was part of the equation?

Rundle College Elementary School is one of a handful of Calgary schools exploring the use of robots to facilitate learning around more daunting subjects like math and science.

Principal Ron Clark said he was elated to see his Grade 5 students so excited to learn after running a series of “Robot Rumble” workshops through STEM Learning Lab, a new education start-up in Calgary focused on engaging students through robotics.

Students spent three-hour sessions learning how to program robots, and then put their programming skills to the test with robot-to-robot competitions.

“The kids said it was so much fun,” Clark said. “It’s the whole idea of showing kids that things like math and science can be fun — it’s very important to get them intrigued and interested.”

Gina Cherkowski, co-founder and director of learning for STEM Learning Lab, said with how quickly the digital age is evolving, technological literacy is essential for students.

As the demand for STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) employees continues to trend upwards, Cherkowski said teachers need to find new ways to get their students interested in subjects typically seen as boring or too difficult.

Enter, robotics.

“I was a high school math teacher for years and I heard so many students say, ‘I hate math,’” Cherkowski said. “But everyone can learn it, and one of the best ways I’ve found is having kids play with robots.”

Cherkowski said teaching students how to program robots has students actively participating and thinking about subjects like math and science in a non-traditional way.

“It provides multiple entry ways for students to get into math and technology,” Cherkowski explained. “This is the shift we’re taking in education, and we need to do it so our kids are prepared for a future requiring math and science.”

Rundle’s Clark said that his own school’s success with STEM pedagogy has Rundle — and several others in Calgary like Ernest Manning High School and Sunalta School — looking at expanding or incorporating robotics programs into their curriculum.

To Read the entire article, go to:


Math and Music

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Math, Music and Movement

Reports show that North American students continue to underperform in mathematics (National Assessment of Educational Programs [NAEP], 2005; National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2009; PISA, 2007 & 2013). This leaves large gaps in our schools, universities, and in our current and future workforce (Gateway, 2006; NSF, 2010; Manpower, 2010; Statistics Canada, 2013). The repercussions this intellectual shortfall are huge as a Nation’s economy depends on their ability to produce a workforce that enables them to be innovative and nationally competitive (Association for Career and Technical Education [ACTE], 2001; Networking, Architecture, & Storage [NAS], 2007; NSF, 2010; Orpwood, Schmidt, & Hu, 2012). Having a skilled and knowledgeable workforce that can solve real-world problems is critical for the health, wealth, and cultural vitality of a nation (Fullen, 2010). Given that over eight million jobs (in the US alone) will require STEM skills by the year 2018 (Lefkowitz, 2014), and the fact that we are projected to be grossly unable to meet these demands (NSF, 2010; Orpwood, Schmidt, & Hu, 2012), the urgency to produce a citizenry that is literate in the STEM fields has never been greater (Manpower, 2010; Parntership for 21st Century Skills, 2010).

Why Math?

To be successful in the STEM fields, students need to be mathematically literate as mathematical knowledge is the foundational building block for learning science and acquiring skills in engineering and technology. Additionally, mathematics is important because according to six large, longitudinal studies that included students from Canada, the US, and England, early mathematical skills are a greater predictor of future reading, math, and academic success more so than socio-emotional skills, attention issues, socio-economic status and even early reading skills (Duncan, Dowsett, Claessens, Magnuson, Huston, Klebanov, Pagani, Feinstein, Engel, Brooks-Gunn, Sexton, Duckworth, & Japel, 2006).

The evidence is clear; math is a critical and necessary skill for all students in today’s technologically-advanced, data-rich world. Thus, the question on everyone’s mind is how do we get more students to become proficient in mathematics not just for the good of STEM so they are aptly prepared fort he demands of the 21st Century.

Moving Full STEAM Ahead

In order develop a robust understanding of math, students need to be engaged in non-traditional ways inside the mathematics classroom. Finding innovative ways to teach math conceptually will ensure more students can successfully engage in mathematical learning. One way to do this is to add “Arts” to the STEM equation.  Using music to teach math has been found to be a highly effective way to ensure students develop a deeper understanding of math (San Francisco State University, 2012, March 22).

Adding Art to STEM (STEAM) removes barriers for many learners  while providing multiple entry points for students to engage in mathematical learning. In addition, it will make math (and science) more meaningful, more connected, more conceptual and more engaging to learn. Furthermore, adding arts to math provides students with real-world math experiences where they come to see, feel and understand how math applies to the world around them. This kind of learning fosters a deep, conceptual understanding of mathematical ideas as opposed to a memorized, disconnected, and shallow understanding. This is important as the in order for students to be aptly prepared for their future, they need the full range of math skills which include problem solving, computational literacy, mathematical reasoning and communication skills, as well as mathematical fluency and flexibility (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, 2000).

Music and Math

Historically, it has been assumed that there is a strong connection that exists between music and mathematics (Vaughn, 2000) however, many people fail to see the connection. Recently, there has been a significant and increasing amount of literature that is bringing awareness to the strong connections between music and math (Hoch & Tillman, 2012). This explosion of research is promising as it supports previous assertions that music has a positive effect on one’s ability to learn and do math (Gardiner, Fox, Knowles & Jeffery, 1996).

Summary: STEM + Arts = Opportunities for all!

Math is a critical and necessary skill for all students in today’s technologically-advanced, data-rich world. Students who are not mathematically literate will be greatly disadvantaged in this future world. Consequently, it is unjust not to give every student the opportunity to be mathematically literate so they can be optimally positioned to be a full and active participant in their future. Since neuroscience tells us all students can do math at high levels (Boaler, 2012), we know this goal is not merely a dream, it is in fact attainable.

Combining music and movement with math is one way to help achieve this critically important and timely goal. Adding music and movement to mathematical learning removes barrier of entry for many students, provides meaning and context, and makes learning math fun and engaging. Additionally, learning math through movement and music helps allows math concepts to no longer remain abstract and disconnected from students’ real world experiences. Through music and movement, students come to see, appreciate, and connect with math in the world around them. By integrating the Arts (music, visual arts, and/or performing arts) with math students have the opportunity to learn math in ways that foster a deep conceptual understanding of mathematical concepts as they feel, experience, understand, and embody mathematics. Through music, students not only learn math, they become mathematical beings.

The evidence is clear; it is time to add Arts to the STEM Equation!


Robotics And Learning Math – Live Event Through Partners In Research With Dr. Gina Cherkowski

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Partners In Research Robotics and Math Live Event

Join Dr. Gina Cherkowski, Co-Founder and Director of Learning For STEM Learning Lab, and Co-Founder of STEM Alberta as she speaks at the Partners In Research Live Event.  The live feed can be accessed here:


Advancing Women in STEM

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“I recently took part on a panel discussion at Simon Fraser University’s BCNET conference discussing ideas and thoughts on how to attract and retain more women in information technology fields (IT). With me there were three other fabulous women who are veterans in the industry. We all had the same goal: to shed a light on women in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industry.” (more…)


STEM and Math

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Since the launching of Sputnik, the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields have been flagged as increasingly important (Schoenfeld, 2001). This trend continues today (National Science Foundation [NSF], 2010). In fact, “STEM” is the most frequently occurring word in our current Information Age (Lefkowitz, 2014). (more…)


STEM equals opportunities for all!

Posted by on 10:06 pm in Featured, Girls in STEM | Comments Off on STEM equals opportunities for all!

In the past 10 years, growth in STEM jobs has been three times greater than non-STEM jobs.

80% of the fastest growing occupations in the United States depend upon mastery of mathematics and scientific knowledge and skills.

While women comprise 48% of the US workforce, just 24% are in STEM fields, a statistic that has held constant for nearly the last decade. (more…)


Visual Spatial Skills and Learning

Posted by on 10:06 pm in Featured, STEM | Comments Off on Visual Spatial Skills and Learning

Visual spatial skills are critical for learning and understanding. In addition to enabling us see, interpret, and understand the world around us, visual spatial skills help us add pictures to stories, connect meanings to symbols, perform and appreciate the arts, and enable us to make critical connections between what we see and understand. (more…)