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Inquiry First.

Part of the Nobel Prize money won by President Obama in 2009 will help Hispanic students pursuing studies in STEM subjects.  The Hispanic Scholarship Fund received $125,000 of President Obama's prize money -- the entire $1.4 million of which he donated to 10 different charities.

According to Hispanic Scholarship Fund CEO Frank Alvarez, his organization would like to see at least one college degree in every Hispanic household. The scholarships afforded by President Obama's donation is a step in that direction.  "As soon as there's a degree in the household, things like applying to college, financial aid, etc. become known because students have an embedded mentor," he said.  This year's 12 winners (another 12 will be selected next year) include college students currently majoring in chemical engineering, secondary education, atmospheric science, information technology, among others.  Award winners showed an interest in becoming STEM teachers.

Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray recognized Dr. John Schneeweis, a Massachusetts physician and proud father of two former Massachusetts State Science & Engineering Fair competitors, for his dedicated involvement with STEM education at the Annual STEM Summit this morning.

Dr. Schneeweis, who works as a family physician in Leominster, has helped to mentor Wachusett Regional High School students working on science research projects.  His own daughter and son won recognition at their respective MA Science & Engineering Fairs at MIT (in 2007 and 2010).  Dr. Schneeweis’s daughter is currently a college student, and his son is finishing high school.

Dr. Schneeweis believes it’s vital that students learn to present ideas in a logical way and develop the skill of critical thinking. “Both are skills vital to success in the future,” he says.

A new statewide public awareness campaign in Massachusetts will engage and educate students in STEM opportunities.  Announced by Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray this morning at the Annual STEM Summit in Newton, MA, the "WOW Initiative" highlights 15 "Wowsters" -- individuals including Red Sox statistician Bill James, whose careers exemplify the application of STEM skills.  Lieutenant Governor Murray also announced that Boston has formed a regional STEM network that joins six regional pre-k-16 networks statewide.
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Last week in Chicago, French and American scientists held a meeting of the minds to compare and contrast their respective approaches to science education.  France's mandate of primary school science reform, instated in 1996, emerged as a key difference.  To date, the U.S. has not seen any unified effort to revitalize science education to the extent that France's La main a la pate has.  Prior to 1996, science was taught in less than five percent of French primary schools.  Now, that number is between 30 and 40 percent.  Among the challenges facing science education cited by representatives from the two countries: Teachers' insecurities about their own science knowledge and scientists' concerns that engaging in too much public outreach could cut in on valuable time in the lab.  Read more about the "Cross Fertilization About Shared Experiences" conference.... Read More

York Regional Academy Regional Charter School is a breeding ground for future science fair competitors.  Currently serving grades K-2, the school has plans to grow to serve students through grade 12.  Following an International Baccalaureate program, the school is inquiry-based, with the students guiding instruction.
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Lori Smolleck, assistant professor of education, at Bucknell University, emphasizes the use of inquiry-based teaching to promote critical thinking in science education. "Teaching science as inquiry encourages students to ask their own questions and find their own answers based on evidence," she says. "This may take a bit longer, but the rewards associated with increased student motivation and interest, as well as the resulting depth of understanding and the acquisition of sophisticated knowledge of scientific content, are well worth the extra time."
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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says that his agency is committed to ensuring that the next generation is prepared to take on leadership roles in the STEM disciplines.  NASA has made STEM education the basis of its learning initiatives, with an eye to addressing the crisis in education and ensuring that America has the technical expertise to compete successfully in the new global economy.
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A bill introduced yesterday by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) that would revise No Child Left Behind seeks to improve instruction in STEM subjects a the elementary through secondary levels, improve student engagement in STEM, and close the achievement gap when it comes to college prep for minorities in STEM subjects.  The bill also permits states to use funds to lure professional scientists and engineers into teaching careers.
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We knew it all along: Engaging teaching methods can make a difference for students!  A new report written by Cary Sneider of Portland State University, titled "Reversing the Swing from Science:  Implications from a Century of Research," looks at a wide variety of research for insights into how to build and maintain interest in STEM among students.

Beginning with John Dewey's 1913 essay, "Interest and Effort in Education," the report examines deductive research conducted over the past century to arrive at several conclusions.  Among them: Attitudes are malleable, and a variety of interventions have the potential to increase student's engagement in STEM activities, courses, and careers.  Furthermore, the report concludes that, while young people like science, they do not necessarily enjoy it in school.  Teachers, teaching methods, and curriculum are key to student engagement.

An enjoyable and fascinating read, which can be found here.

More good reasons for students to participate in science fairs: In September, the Afterschool Alliance released a new report assessing the impact of STEM learning in afterschool programs. “STEM Learning in Afterschool: An Analysis of Impact and Outcomes” found that the nation’s urgent need for students to learn science, technology, engineering and math skills can get a significant boost from afterschool programs. Specifically, attending high-quality STEM afterschool programs results in improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers, increased STEM knowledge and skills, a higher likelihood of graduation among students.


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