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Inquiry First.

On Wired's "Geekmom" blog, Rebecca Angel recapped her interview with Carlos Contreras, Intel's Education Director, about the state of STEM education in the US.

Pointing out that American students have a long way to go when it comes to matching their international peers' performance on tests that require creative, complex thinking, Contreras feels that parents have a role to play in engaging young children in the kinds of activities that foster a spirit of inquiry. "Whatever the passion of the parent is, there is science behind it, whether it’s cooking or whatever hobby they are into," he said. "There is science there, and get your kids to experiment."

Encouraging students to explore science and work to find the solutions to the questions they have can be invaluable.  Mentoring programs, like... Read More

The Broadcom MASTERS® (Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars), a program of Society for Science & the Public, is the national science, technology, engineering and math competition for U.S. 6th, 7th, and 8th graders that inspires and encourages the nation’s young scientists, engineers and innovators. This year's list of semifinalists includes the following nine young stars from Massachusetts:

Dayle Kwang-Liang Wang | Grade 8
Massachusetts Region V Science Fair (USMA01)
Dover-Sherborn Regional Middle School
Gusty Discoveries

Evan Leon Tilley | Grade 6
Massachusetts Region III Science Fair (USMA03)
St. Francis Xavier School (Acushnet)
Salt Water Desalination

Ethan Wyatt Messier | Grade 6
Swansea New England Christian Academy
Wave to the Future: The Utilization of... Read More

In an interesting collision of pop culture and science, MIT unveiled a new reality video series this week called "ChemLab Boot Camp."  The series follows MIT freshmen as they progress through the four-week-long Introductory Lab Techniques course. It's geek entertainment with a mission.  According to MIT Professor John Essigmann, "We hope to show the human side of our field and to inspire young people to want to become the next generation of chemists."

The show, which premieres officially in September, promises to give viewers a front-row seat on hands-on learning at its finest.  It also has the potential to deliver a little drama: Students who succeed in the class have a guaranteed job in a MIT research lab.  Stay tuned...!
See on... Read More

NASA's "Mohawk Guy" Bobak Ferdowski -- a flight director for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity mission -- has been the subject of some unexpected curiosity, himself. With his hair-raising style and winning personality, Ferdowski seems to be taking his new-found fame in style. The Washington Post's Haley Crum had the opportunity to ask Ferdowski reader-submitted questions. Here's his response to an inquiry about STEM education and his possible role in motivating the next generation of scientists.

See on www.washingtonpost.com

As games gain popularity among students as an education delivery method, the Department of Education has jumped on board with awards that focus on game-based learning education technology products.  The Institute of Education Sciences -- the research arm of the Department of Education -- announced a new round of awards, many of which focus on game-based learning products.  Phase I awards provide support to the tune of up to $150K for prototype development.  Phase II awards will kick in next year in amounts reaching $900K over two years.

Education gaming experts say that well-designed games are motivating for students and by presenting discovery-based tasks, encourage critical thinking skills.  One project currently in the funding cycle is Game-enhanced Interactive Life Science -- a suite of five life-science games.  Their purpose... Read More

At the National Urban League Conference in New Orleans last month, President Obama announced an initiative geared toward improving the education of African-American students. The goal of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans is to close the achievement gap between black and white students -- a goal that is particularly significant withing the STEM education realm. The initiative should have an impact on STEM education for African-American students in several ways, not the least of which is exposing them to the sciences, math, and engineering at a younger age. For more ways in which President Obama's initiative promises to brighten the STEM education outlook for African Americans, read this post in Black Enterprise:... Read More

It's an age-old question: What's the best way to teach? These days the question is a has a new dimension: What's the best way to use technology to teach?"

A recent article in "Hack Education" tackles that latter question by asking readers to take a look back at the contributions of five of the 20th century's most influential educational theorists: John Dewey (pictured here), Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget, B.F. Skinner, and Paolo Freire. In several-paragraphs summaries of the philosophies of each thinker, article author Audrey Watters puts the philosophers' influences into current-day perpective by identifying who in tech each has influenced (in Dewey's case, the Maker Movement). It's an interesting and thought-provoking piece worth a look.
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Integrating the arts into STEM education can have powerful effects on student performance. According to the National Endowment for the Arts in its 2012 report, "The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth," "Eighth graders who had high levels of arts engagement from kindergarten through elementary school showed higher test scores in science and writing than did students who had lower levels of arts engagement over the same period." Wolf Trap's Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts in Vienna, Virginia, is going full STEAM ahead with a full slate of programs designed to infuse art into the curriculum. Wolf Trap's senior director of education, Akua Kouyate, is leading the organization's charge into the classroom. "If we think historically about how that has always been a part of learning, why would we stop it?" she said. "Why would we deny our children that which will allow them to really contribute significantly in the future?" Here's more about Wolf Trap's Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts:

How's this for a useful application of science: An interesting post by Dr. Judy Willis in Edutopia makes the case for teachers having a foundation in neuroscience.  A neurologist herself, as well as a teacher, Dr. Willis says, "Teachers who are prepared with knowledge of the workings of the brain will have the optimism, incentive and motivation to follow the ongoing research, and to apply their findings to the classroom."  She goes on to say, "These teachers can help all children build their brain potential -- regardless of past performance -- bridge the achievement gap, and reach their highest 21st century potential starting now."  Dr. Willis's argument makes good sense.  As she points out, if teachers understood the impact of stress on a student's classroom performance, or knew more about how the brain processes and stores information, wouldn't such knowledge have great potential to result... Read More

Brittany Wenger, a 17-year-old science whiz from Florida, has taken the Google Science Fair's top prize with her invention of an artificial brain with an uncanny ability to diagnose breast cancer. "I taught the computer how to diagnose breast cancer," Brittany said. "And this is really important because currently the least invasive form of biopsy is actually the least conclusive, so a lot of doctors can't use them."

Brittany's artificial neural network is a computer program coded to do turbo-charged brain-like thinking, in this case, with the power to detect complex patterns.  She built it with Java, deployed it in the cloud, and ran more than 7 million trials.  The accuracy of artificial neural networks improves with use.  Brittany brought her project to the point of having a greater than 99 percent sensitivity to malignancy.  “It will require a little bit of... Read More

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