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Inquiry First.

An often overlooked force for good in the battle to increase students' pursuit of STEM subjects? Their parents.

A recent study from the Association for Psychological Science (APS) revealed that targeting parents with information about the importance of STEM education in high school boosted enrollment of students in related courses.  Encouragement from parents is particularly important in the last two years of high school, when many advanced math and science courses are optional.

The APS study showed that parental understanding of the impact of their children's high school course selections on their college -- and later, career -- paths resulted in more informed oversight of their students' course choices.  The study consisted of nothing more than a modest information campaign, targeting the same group of parents with brochures at two points in their children's high school career, suggesting that tapping parental influence is surprisingly easy.  “Although some... Read More

Science fairs foster a spirit of inquiry in education, helping students to realize and experience practical applications of what they have learned in the classroom.  For teachers who see the benefits of bringing inquiry learning into the classroom, the question of how to do so while covering the curriculum can weigh heavy.

In a thoughtful blog post on the Canadian Education Association's web site, English teacher Brooke Moore explores that question -- among others -- concluding that, "there is a distinct difference between giving students the liberty to go in many directions and scaffolding them to move in a purposeful direction with confidence." Read more about Brooke's experience with inquiry learning in the classroom here: www.cea-ace.ca.

Consider this sobering statement, made by Bill Gates in 2005: "When I compare our high schools to what I see when I’m traveling abroad, I am terrified for our workforce of tomorrow."  Headline after headline proclaims that STEM education in the US is broken.  But what, in fact, is really wrong with it?

A recent article in Slate tackles that question by uncovering five common myths and misconceptions that present barriers to STEM education reform.

Myth #1: "American schools have deteriorated in the past 30 or 40 years, as demonstrated by our poor performance on international assessments of math and science achievement. We need to restore American elementary and secondary education to their previous glory."  Slate takes the viewpoint that, far from having deteriorated, the American education system wasn't all that great in the first place.  "Incorrectly... Read More

Carlos Cunha, a teacher of physics and chemistry at an upper secondary school in Setúbal, Portugal, is leading an online discussion event this week about science education.  Specifically, participants are engaging in discussion about communicating innovative science teaching practices through social media.  Today is day two of the event, focusing on improving dissemination of science project results to teachers.  The third and final day of the online event is tomorrow, when the conversation will focus on what kind of information is most important to communicate to teachers in the information dissemination process.
See on desire.eun.org

Here's a novel idea: a dollhouse complete with assembly-required furniture and working circuit boards.  The goal, of course, is to reach girls where they live, so to speak, and encourage an early interest in math and science.  The project, called "Roominate," is the brain child of three women who met as master's students at Stanford University. Noting the significant gender imbalance in their classes, Alice Brooks, Bettina Chen, and Jennifer Kessler cast their minds back to their own childhoods -- and the gender-neutral toys that entertained them.  Alice Brooks' father gave her a saw, for example.

The trio launched a Kickstarter campaign, which has raised more than $85,000, far surpassing the $25,000 funding goal they had set.  Look for Roominate soon for your future scientist in museums and online!
See on... Read More

With an estimated 14 million people currently out of work in the US, how can there still be a shortage of qualified workers to fill STEM positions? The disconnect was one topic discussed at last week's STEM Solutions 2012 leadership summit in Dallas. Leaders seemed to agree that inspiring students to follow an educational path in STEM subjects is key to solving the crisis. But the question of the role that companies might play in enticing and helping to cultivate talent is still unanswered.

In terms of where, specifically, the talent gaps are, experts are divided. Many cite math as an area in which American students are lacking, pointing to the emphasis on standardized testing -- rather than real-world applications -- as the measure of our students' math ability.

Several possible solutions to the problem of the shortage of trained STEM workers were voiced at the summit. Among them:... Read More

Community colleges are emerging as an ever more important piece of the STEM education puzzle. Speaking at the 2012 U.S. News STEM Solutions Summit, Uri Treisman, math professor at University of Texas-Austin, said, "A 10, 15 percent increase in [STEM degree] completion would solve our national problem."  One challenge in getting to that level of increase lies in the disconnect between high school STEM programs and university-level expectations.  Positioned between these two entities, community colleges have the potential to provide skills that are lacking among recent high school graduates and prepare them for the rigors of college-level STEM programs.
See on www.usnews.com

The research of Quincy High School seniors Peter Giunta and Eoin Moriarty snagged them a Team Honorable Mention at the 63rd Massachusetts High School Science & Engineering Fair at MIT in May.  More importantly, the pair's project shed light on an interesting question: Is the consumption of probiotics through yogurt or pills really beneficial to digestive health?  Read all about their project and the hands-on work that they did in order to reach their conclusion.

Fifteen-year-old Rahi Punjabi has had an exciting year. His research on the efficacy of garlic in reducing bacterial infection in patients with cystic fibrosis won him first-place honors at the Massachusetts State High School Science & Engineering Fair in May.  The same project nabbed a fourth place at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair, and led to a coveted opportunity for Rahi to participate in the 2012 National BioGENEius Challenge earlier this week.

Rahi had the chutzpah early in the course of his research to contact researchers at UMass Medical School to inquire about working in their labs during his school vacations. Dr. Beth McCormick, professor of microbiology and physiological systems, felt compelled by his email.  "One of the reasons I’m in academia is to encourage those who show an interest in science,” she... Read More

Despite the heavily-reported need for U.S. students to graduate from high school with sharp STEM skills to meet work force demand, a report released today suggests that we have a long way to go.

For the first time ever, the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, administered to 4th, 8th, and 12th graders featured hands-on and interactive computer-based science activities.  The results are sobering, especially those linked to students' ability to apply the data they collected to explain or apply their findings.  “While I’m happy to see the vast majority of students [tested] were able to make straightforward observations, I’m not particularly happy to see a smaller number know what data to collect in an experiment,” said NCES Commissioner Jack Buckley. “This points to something we need to work on in the future.”
See on www.edweek.org... Read More

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