Most recent blog updates:


The Chicken Dance Case: Mi-STAR Students Solve a Mystery

July 3, 2018 12:03 pm

A mysterious affliction hits a Michigan public school. Many of the teachers are inexplicably breaking out in show tunes and irritating 1980s novelty dances, and to cope with the crisis, the building is placed under quarantine. Enter the plague sleuths: students piloting Mi-STAR's Unit 6.2: Investigating and Modeling Body Systems. "They are looking for a... - Read more

Six New Mi-STAR Units Available for 2018-19

June 11, 2018 3:46 pm

Michigan middle-school science teachers can access six new, classroom-tested Mi-STAR units starting in September 2018, increasing the number of available units to 12. The new units complete Mi-STAR's sixth-grade curriculum and provide an additional seventh-grade offering. This sets the stage for next year's sixth graders to experience three years of Mi-STAR curriculum, since Mi-STAR expects to... - Read more

Michigan Tech's Mi-STAR kits to be supplied by Nasco

May 24, 2018 5:38 pm

Michigan Tech's Mi-STAR program recently signed an agreement with Nasco that will allow Nasco to prepare and sell kits for use with the Mi-STAR curriculum in middle school science classes. Mi-STAR's curriculum and its associated professional learning program were designed and developed in full alignment with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Michigan Science Standards. The curriculum... - Read more

From Seed to Harvest to Seed: Understanding the Cycle of Life

May 17, 2018 1:15 pm

If humans do establish a colony on Mars, the students of Mi-STAR will be ready to help solve the food problem. After all, if you can figure out the best way to grow cabbage in the Arizona desert, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Antarctica and the International Space Station, you can probably figure out how to grow... - Read more

Closing the Achievement Gap: Mi-STAR Sending At-Risk Students to the Front of the Class

May 3, 2018 4:18 pm

Education is supposed to be the great equalizer, but too often it primarily "equalizes" the sons and daughters of the already successful. "The traditional setup of schoolwork does not always work for low-income kids," said Monica Wyrwicz, a veteran science teacher at Hart Middle School in Rochester Hills. "When everything was about memorization, a lot... - Read more

Midland Teachers Add Pizzazz to Mi-STAR with New Team-Building Exercises

Mar. 20, 2018 5:55 pm

Mi-STAR is getting kids all over the state enthused about science, and now a couple of Midland Public Schools science teachers are ratcheting up the excitement. Their team-building exercises quite literally have students begging for more. Robin Allen and Denise Bujalski work in adjoining classrooms at Northeast Middle School. When they began teaching Mi-STAR to... - Read more

"It Gets Easier": A Teacher's Notes from the Trenches

Feb. 15, 2018 1:30 pm

It gets easier. Even after two summers of writing with the MiSTAR team, I found my first pilot experience teaching a MiSTAR unit last year to be exhausting. My kids were thriving, and I was excited. It was science teaching like you've always known it's meant to be. And it was exhausting. Like first-year-teacher exhausting.... - Read more

Learn More about Mi-STAR at MSTA's Annual Conference March 2 - 3

Feb. 9, 2018 9:07 pm

Middle school educators will have a chance to learn more about Mi-STAR and pick up some ready-to-use lessons at the Michigan Science Teachers Association's annual conference, set for Friday and Saturday, March 2-3, in Lansing. On Saturday morning, Mi-STAR is holding an information session that will introduce its Professional Learning Program to those interested in... - Read more

Midland Daily News Features Mi-STAR

Jan. 25, 2018 7:26 pm

Mi-STAR was featured in a Jan. 17 article by Roger Bryant appearing in the Midland Daily News, "MPS Board Approves New STEM Curriculum." The MPS Board of Education approved following the Mi-STAR course sequence at both MPS middle schools. The article cites three Mi-STAR educators, Carmen Kessler, Jennifer Lenon and Robin Allen, who praised the... - Read more

Mi-STAR Pilot Testing Two New Units on Force, Motion and Energy Transfer

Jan. 17, 2018 3:58 pm

The Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform project (Mi-STAR) designed six new units during the summer of 2017 and began piloting two of them this fall in Michigan classrooms. The sixth-grade unit, 6.4, introduces students to force and motion through the story of a boy who totals his cell phone. In unit 7.4, seventh graders... - Read more

Mi-STAR Launches First Wave of Trainers into Michigan Schools

Jan. 5, 2018 2:50 pm

The Mi-STAR staff have always known they wouldn't be able to provide one-on-one support to all the science teachers who want the new curriculum, which is based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). After all, there are over 600 middle schools in Michigan. Most teachers are unfamiliar with the NGSS approach to science education,... - Read more

Google Slides Give a Boost to Mi-STAR Unit on Michigan Ecosystems

Nov. 13, 2017 7:55 pm

While piloting the Mi-STAR unit on Michigan ecosystems last spring, Midland science teacher Denise Bujalski found a perfect opportunity to introduce her sixth graders to a powerful tool from Google. During the unit, teams of students are assigned to study one of several ecosystems that are threatened by an invasive species, including wetlands, dunes, urban... - Read more

Teachers Train to Bring Mi-STAR to the Classroom

Nov. 3, 2017 3:28 pm

Fifteen teachers from across Michigan's Upper Peninsula went back to school one day last month, gathering at the Copper Country Intermediate School District office in Hancock. When the final bell had figuratively rung, they piled into their cars and dispersed to districts scattered across hundreds of miles. In the coming months, these teachers from South... - Read more

Mi-STAR's Logo Redesigned with Core Mission in Mind

Oct. 27, 2017 5:01 pm

Recent visitors to Mi-STAR's website or social media accounts might notice something a little different about our logo. After looking at the old logo for a long time, the Mi-STAR team finally noticed a big problem: the logo illustrates what Mi-STAR is not, rather than what Mi-STAR is. Curriculum Development Coordinator Doug Oppliger explains: "The […] - Read more

Beyond Middle School: Bringing Mi-STAR to the ESA

Sept. 19, 2017 4:10 pm

by Tony Matthys, Mi-STAR curriculum developer A few weeks before the Ecological Society of America (ESA) 2017 Annual Meeting in August, I wasn't sure I'd be going. Along with Mi-STAR teacher Kendall Grazul, I was scheduled to lead a couple of workshops, but frankly, I was worried. Sign-ups for our workshops were trickling in, and... - Read more

Mi-STAR Teacher Cited by CNN

July 31, 2017 4:15 pm

CNN tapped Mi-STAR teacher Chris Geerer for its June 14 article "Climate Change in Schools Where It's Fake News." While many teachers receive little education in climate change, Geerer, who teaches science at Parcells Middle School in Grosse Pointe Woods, noted that she had been able to take a professional development course on the subject... - Read more

Mi-STAR Gains State, National Recognition for Excellence

July 28, 2017 7:28 pm

Mi-STAR has been recognized as a strategic STEM education program that promises to ensure a good return on investment. Governor Rick Snyder's MiSTEM Advisory Council, made up of business, education and philanthropy leaders, partnered with Change the Equation to identify programs that meet "rigorous design principles for effectiveness" and will improve STEM education in Michigan.... - Read more

Updated Mi-STAR Website to Give Teachers Access to New Curriculum

July 20, 2017 3:30 pm

Welcome to the new Mi-STAR website (! We hope our visitors will find it more useful and easier to navigate than our old site. But, the big news is that we now have a custom curriculum portal that will provide teachers online access to the Mi-STAR curriculum! In mid August, we will have six units... - Read more

Preview of New M-STEP Science Test Reveals a Good Fit with Mi-STAR

June 21, 2017 2:38 pm

From all reports, Michigan middle schoolers and their science teachers are enthusiastic about Mi-STAR. Not only are the units fun and interesting, but the students also emerge with a deep understanding of the subject matter. But how well will Mi-STAR prepare students for the upcoming NGSS-aligned standardized tests, which serve as yardsticks, not only of... - Read more

Breaking Barriers for All Students

May 25, 2017 6:43 pm

When Carman Kessler had a chance to pilot a Mi-STAR unit, she hoped for good results. What she got was a transformation. "I've never seen anything like this," she said. Kessler, who teaches science at Northeast Middle School in Midland, recently completed the eighth-grade unit on natural hazards. She works with both general education students... - Read more

Keeping It Local: Engaging Students with a Michigan-Centric Unit Challenge

May 25, 2017 4:08 pm

By Jayme Swanson, sixth grade teacher, Northeast Middle School, Midland Five or six years ago, my science department decided we needed to redo our curriculum, and we did. We created a lot of good hands-on lessons, and when I tell other teachers that I haven't used textbooks for four or five years, some of them... - Read more

Teachers Represent Mi-STAR at National Science Education Conference

May 5, 2017 5:07 pm

Teachers Dawn Kahler, of Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Robin Allen, of Midland Public Schools, presented on behalf of Mi-STAR at the 2017 National Conference of the National Science Teachers Association, held March 29-April 2, 2017 in Los Angeles. The conference attracts educators from around the country who want to stay on the cutting edge of... - Read more

Mi-STAR Teacher Honored for Teaching Excellence

Jan. 27, 2017 6:43 pm

Dawn Kahler, a key contributor to the Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform Project (Mi-STAR) has received a Catalyst Education Award for exceptional teaching. Kahler teaches eighth grade science at Milwood Magnet School for Math, Science and Technology. She joined the Kalamazoo Public Schools in 1993, first teaching fifth and sixth grade and then, in... - Read more

Teaching Engineering and Teamwork to Sixth Graders with a Simple Hands-on Exercise

Jan. 25, 2017 3:52 pm

Watching a video of the ill-fated Tacoma Narrows Bridge collapsing in high winds might seem like a bang-up way to teach fundamental engineering concepts to sixth graders. That's why curriculum developers used it to introduce key engineering concepts in the first unit of the Mi-STAR middle school curriculum. Sixth grade teachers had some concerns, however.... - Read more

Updated Mi-STAR Academy Included in Free NGSS Workshops for Michigan Science Teachers

Jan. 12, 2017 3:51 pm

Science teachers from across Michigan can now enroll in an updated version of the online Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform (Mi-STAR) Academy. The academy is a self-paced, online course that helps teachers deepen their understanding of the new Michigan Science Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. Modules address topics such as the structure of... - Read more

A Model for Bundling and Sequencing the 59 Middle School Performance Expectations of NGSS

Dec. 23, 2016 2:01 pm

There are 26 bones in the human foot, all of them critical, but unless they are connected properly, you aren't going to walk very far. The same is true of the Next Generation Science Standards' performance expectations, only there are nearly five dozen of them for grades 6 - 8 alone. That's why the educational community is... - Read more

How I Learned to Engage Fourth-Graders with a Simple Anchoring Phenomenon

Nov. 16, 2016 4:52 pm

Back in October, I was roped in to holding an activity station for the Lake Superior Water Festival on the Michigan Tech campus. The organizer, Joan Chadde, managed to convince me that I could do something with kids regarding water consumption and product life cycles, but frankly, I had my doubts. I put off thinking... - Read more

Getting Their Feet Wet: Sixth Graders Learn About the Water Cycle in Mi-STAR Pilot

Nov. 7, 2016 5:34 pm

Imagine you are 11 years old. Now imagine you are called upon to develop a management strategy for a once well-behaved river that's started flooding in spring and drying up in summer. In a half dozen sixth-grade classrooms across Michigan, students are doing just that. They are the first cohort to pilot the first unit... - Read more

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Mi-STAR is made possible through the generous support provided by the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.
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