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Inquiry First.

So much for throwing the term "bird brain" around as an insult. Pigeons are proving that they're no slouch in the intelligence department, especially when it comes to numerical competence.

A study published in the latest issue of the journal Science, reveals that pigeons have surprising math abilities, leading scientists to question whether they are unique in this regard in the bird world, or if all birds have greater intelligence than we typically assume. "It would be fair to say that, even among birds, pigeons are not thought to be the sharpest crayon in the box," lead author Damian Scarf told Discovery News. "I think that this ability may be widespread among birds. There is already clear evidence that it is widespread among primates."

While science fair preparations may seem intimidating or even downright overwhelming for students, good planning and some strategic parental guidance can help mitigate the stress.  Furthermore, parents can be extremely useful when it comes to choosing a project. “Parents are usually in the best situation to know what fascinates and inspires their kids,” says parent Kathleen Bethel.  For some simple yet valuable things parents can do to help during science fair season, read on.

In 1953, GE used comic books as a hook to get kids interested and involved in learning STEM.  Anyone remember "Adventures inside the Atom?"  The modern-day equivalent: Video games, of course.  What do you think about the strategy of meeting kids "where they live" as a hook for STEM learning?

What preconceived notions do middle school students have about scientists?  The image of the myopic, middle-aged, lab-coat-wearing geek flew out the window for a group of 7th graders, who drew their impressions of scientists before and after a field trip to Fermilab to meet real, working scientists on the job.

Cornell University and Technion (Israel Institue of Technology) will be building a new graduate engineering school on Roosevelt Island, New York City. The new facility will be known as the NYC Tech Campus will focus on applied sciences and based on hubs including Connecting Media, Healthier Life, and Built Environment. All of the hubs will be based on computer science, electrical engineering, info sciences, economics, and business.

LEAP University Academy Charter School founder Dr. Gloria Bonilla-Santiago sees opportunities for STEM education to reach into impoverished areas and help lift children up to break the cycle of poverty. LEAP Academy, in Camden, NJ, has made inroads toward doing just that, with a STEM curriculum put into place last year.  It has operated through a formula that Bonilla-Santiago sees as a way of the future. "At LEAP, we are recruiting teachers from industry who are scientists first, educators second," she says. "For example, our freshman-level science classes are being taught by an energetic woman who holds a Ph.D. in physics. She can earn a lot more money in private industry, but she believes in our mission." In addition to hiring high quality teachers, Bonilla-Santiago's strategy has included developing a partnership with Rutgers University, keeping classes small, and providing teachers with ample professional development opportunities. "Add it all together, and you have the formula for... Read More

Teachers: get your applications in now for the Siemens Teachers as Researchers (STARs) program! Run by The Siemens Foundation and Discovery Education, the program is an all-expense-paid experience aimed at improving STEM teaching. Over the summer, the 40 teachers selected will work in small groups with teams of scientists on projects ranging from biological systems to sustainable energy. “While reviewing applications for our STARs program, we look for a diverse group of educators with strong academic backgrounds in science, technology, engineering and math who are truly passionate about advancing student achievement in those topic areas," said Mary Rollins, vice president of Discovery Education. "We are positive that the candidates we choose will take the skills, contacts and resources we provide them during the program back to their classrooms across the country and use them to motivate their students to excel in STEM learning.” Applications are due February 9th, and may be submitted... Read More

As part of Massachusetts' Race to the Top initiative, the University of Massachusetts-Lowell will receive $1.6 million to support teacher preparation in STEM subjects.  The grant will be given over three years, and will impact 250 teachers in the university's teacher preparation program.  According to UMass-Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan, “The UTeach UMass Lowell program draws on our strengths in research and experiential education, working in partnership with the Lowell, Methuen and Lawrence school districts.”   Congratulations!

The 2012 Intel Schools of Distinction Application process is now open!  The deadline for applying is Feb. 23, 2012.  From Intel's web site:

"Every year, Intel honors U.S. schools demonstrating excellence in math and science education through innovative teaching and learning environments. To be considered as an Intel School of Distinction, schools must develop an environment and curricula that meet or exceed benchmarks put forth by national mathematics and science content standards.

Up to three schools at each level—elementary, middle, and high school—will be named as finalists in the math and science categories. The 18 schools will receive a cash grant of USD 5,000 from the Intel Foundation and a trip to Washington, D.C., for a four-member team from their school and district. Six winners will be selected from the finalists and receive an additional USD 5,000 cash grant for a total of USD... Read More

A democratic senator from Colorado thinks that an answer to the large, and growing, demand in this country for scientists and engineers could be addressed in part by granting temporary student visas to undocumented high school graduates who wish to pursue those subjects in college.  Sen. Michael Bennet, a former Denver Public Schools superintendent, proposed The DREAM Act --  an immigration overhaul bill -- this week, saying that another of its benefits would be to lower the barriers to working in the U.S. to foreign graduates holding advanced degrees in science or math.  "I've had a number of conversations with large- and small-business owners in Colorado who have made it clear that our visa system is putting them at a serious disadvantage," Bennet said.


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