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Inquiry First.

Nitya Jacob, assistant professor of biology at Emory’s Oxford College, always dreamed of being published in the prestigious journal, Science.  As her career progressed and she made the decision to become a teacher, she assumed that she had next to no chance of making that dream a reality.  How wrong she was.  The next issue of Science will feature Nitya's paper, "Investigating Arabia Mountain: A Molecular Approach," which grew out of a lab module Nitya developed for her freshman and sophomore students.  “I want my students to be aware of their biological surroundings,” Jacob says. “It’s so easy to go about life without ever thinking about what’s around you.” In addition to the pending publication of her work in Science, Nitya was also honored with a 2011 Science Prize for Inquiry-Based Instruction for her lab module. Inspirational!
Via esciencecommons.blogspot... Read More

A message that has been popping up with increasing frequency in the mainstream media recently is that the future of our country depends in large part on our success at training the next generation of STEM workers.  Yet all too often, an ominous warning accompanies that message: American students are falling behind in STEM subjects, and at this rate we the U.S. soon will lose its competitive edge in the global economy.

What will it take to ensure a successful transition into the new economy?  Addressing K-12 STEM education is imperative.  Everything from the curriculum to the physical environment of the classroom could be adapted to facilitate the effective delivery of STEM subjects for maximum impact on  our students -- our future.  According to the "Getting Smarter" blog, "Instead of teaching technology or engineering with a chalkboard, students will learn with interactive smart boards, digital devices like iPads... Read More

A new post on the Citizen IBM blog looks at how to motivate students in STEM subjects by design; that is, engage them in real problem-solving rather than merely "telling" them about science. "Design is a process by which people from diverse fields make decisions about the form, function, and use of materials to create artifacts, systems and tools that solve a range of problems, large and small," the article states. "By focusing on design, one learns how to identify a problem or need, how to consider design options and constraints, and how to plan, model, test and iterate solutions to vexing problems, making higher-order thinking skills tangible and visible." The post includes a straightforward video on differentiated instruction. Given the national imperative of science literacy, the mounting evidence that hands-on, inquiry-based learning is a critical underpinning of education today cannot be ignored.
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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.
Via www.educationnews.org

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... 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.
Via thenextweb.com

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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