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Inquiry First.

Apparently perceiving the implications of an inadequately educated workforce in STEM fields on the workforce, many tech corporations are stepping up their efforts to address the crisis in STEM education. And trend comes not a moment too soon: According to the National Science Foundation, 80% of jobs created over the next decade will require at minimum a modest STEM skill set. Intel's investment to date is in the neighborhood of $1 billion, while other tech companies, from Facebook to Microsoft are looking at innovative ways of addressing the crisis.

Jim Vanides, Education Program Manager, Sustainability & Social Innovation at Hewlett-Packard, makes a case for project-based learning that is tangible, relevant, and authentic in a blog post on Tech Trends. Referring to the concept as "STEM(+) for Good," Vanides defines it further as learning that engages students in the challenge of finding solutions to real-world challenges and problems. "After all, high tech companies are not looking to hire students who only know how to solve the 'problems at the end of the chapter,'" Vanides writes. "Corporations and communities need graduates who can think, create, and innovate. STEM(+) students who are ready to solve REAL problems – those that have... Read More

Interestingly, data on patent filings reveals that women are responsible for a mere 7 percent. What's behind the huge gender disparity? "Men are more likely to be in jobs involving design work or development work... so the 'D' in the R&D," says Rutgers economist Jenny Hunt. "And even within given fields of study, women are less likely to be in those jobs and that also reduces their patenting." A big part of the difference could lie with each gender's affinity for risk-taking, with research pointing to men as more comfortable with risk. Same-sex schools can have an interesting effect on nurturing innovation and freeing women to take more risks academically and professionally.
via Marketplace Freakonomics Radio

From halfway around the world, a short video featuring Vic Hygate a teacher at Windsor School in Christchurch, New Zealand, offers a simple and clear definition of inquiry learning and the impact that it has had on Vic's students and her life.

Here in Massachusetts, the unseasonably warm weather reminds us how close we are to the opening of the 63rd annual Massachusetts State High School Science & Engineering Fair! On Friday, May 4, high school students will have their outstanding projects on display at MIT. Some participants will have invested more than 1,000 hours of work into their project by that time!

The success of science fairs depends in large part on the talents and generosity of volunteer judges.  MSSEF asks only that judges have a minimum of an undergrad degree in a STEM discipline and work in a STEM-related field.  If you've ever considered judging, this article by Susan Wells, editor of the Steve Spangler Science Blog, offers a behind-the-scenes peek into what science fair judging is like for a "newbie."

If you have time on Friday, May 4th to come to MIT and volunteer as a judge, please let us know!  Judges may register online at ... Read More

The Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts is leading the movement to break down the barriers to STEM subjects by engaging students in hands-on, innovative learning.  Inspiring a new generation of scientists and inventors is the ultimate goal of today's STEM education, and initiatives like the one at Tufts create invaluable opportunities for students to establish an early fondness for "intimidating" subject matter.

In his description of what a global curriculum might look like, Edutopia blogger Terry Heick presents a picture of education driven by inquiry.  The three "small, manageable ideas" that he suggests as a starting point for the globalization of curriculum add up to a classroom where students of all interests and abilities can exercise their natural curiosity within "authentic" learning environments.  Specifically, Heick suggests that educators adapt to the learners, rethink learning spaces, and leverage the role of play.  Even beyond the scope of these suggestions for the goal of globalizing education, Heick's ideas -- if put into action -- would create an environment that encourages and rewards inquiry.  STEM subjects are uniquely suited to this kind of approach, and programs like science fairs put students firmly in control of their learning.
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Be sure not to overlook the fabulous New England Aquarium as a STEM resource for Massachusetts educators!  Check out NEAQ's Teacher Resource Newsletter for information on upcoming  workshops and conferences, including "Why Do We Explore," presented by NOAA in April, and "How Science Inspires Engineering," scheduled for July.  The "Diving into STEM" conference, coming up on April 28, will explore the use of technology in marine science.
via Discovery Education Massachusetts

Should credit for proficiency in a school subject really be tied to how long a student physically spends in a classroom "learning" that subject? It's a question that more and more states are asking, with 36 having relatively recently adopted policies that loosen the link between credits and seat time.  Quite simply, "having a seat in a class doesn't guarantee you anything," according to Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education.  The trend has its detractors, of course, who question whether online learning can adequately fill the gaps that diminished seat time requirements might leave.  "A teacher inspires students," said Rita M. Solnet, a member of Parents Across America. "A laptop can't do that."

In his blog, "Arthropod Ecology, Christopher M. Buddle, Associate Professor in McGill University's Department of Natural Resource Sciences makes the case for a scientist's responsibility to do outreach. The five points he makes supporting his argument are: 1) scientists have specialized expertise; 2) scientists have credentials; 3) scientists are critical thinkers; 4) scientists are communicators; and 5) scientists are passionate. For all these reasons, scientists have the knowledge and power to alter perspectives and inspire others. Read Buddle's whole post here:


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