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Inquiry First.

When 8th grader Chance Williams found himself floundering in Spanish class, his tech-savvy father floated the suggestion that his son be allowed to take Java as a foreign language instead.  The school agreed, and permitted Chance and his dad to organize an independent study course.

Things have gone well: Chance hopes to get his Java certification by the end of 9th grade, and already has produced an app, Droidbox, which has been downloaded 500 times.

Even veteran educators are putting research into practice and testing the merits of inquiry-based approaches to learning versus lecture-style teaching.  At George Washington University, for example, physics professor William Briscoe -- a professor for 35 years -- took an apprehensive leap into inquiry learning, using small group discussions and hands-on activities to teach his introductory physics class.  He noticed that the average grade students in that class received on the first test he administered were 10% higher than those of students in his lecture courses.

More than 160 STEM-related proposals -- adding up to $737 million in requested funding -- are in the running to claim a slice of the $150 million in federal aid available through second round of the Investing in Innovation ("I3") program.  The first round of funding resulted in 49 I3 grants divvying up $650 million.

In the running for some round-two funds: Boston's Museum of Science, which has requested $2.9 million for its Expand the Gateway to Implementing Technology and Engineering Standards project.  The project aims to increase the number of Massachusetts and Maine school districts providing high-quality STEM education and ultimately the number of students pursuing careers in the STEM fields

Some food for thought: With the current emphasis on the high value of STEM skills for the workplace of the future, some feel that the importance of adding liberal arts to the mix can be lost.  At the World Entrepreneurship Forum held in Singapore yesterday everyone from Lockheed Martin's chief technology to the Senator-Mayor of Lyon, France highlighted the importance of offering learners an environment that fosters creativity.

Here's a handy list of some college aid options for students in science, technology, engineering, or math fields.

In a single year, enrollment of first-year women in Perdue University's College of Engineering reportedly increased 31 percent.  To what does the school attribute such a dramatic gain?  Although it's difficult to pinpoint with complete accuracy, Beth Holloway, director of the College's Women in Engineering Program, points to a likely factor: The college's use of the 2008 report, "Changing the Conversation: Messages for Improving Public Understanding of Engineering."

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Community colleges from across the nation are recognizing the need to spark students' interest in STEM subjects early in their education as a way of enticing them into science-, technology-, engineering-, and math-related professions.

Science fairs, STEM-focused summer camps,  and specialized teacher training are among the opportunities made available by community colleges to students and teachers interested in pursuing STEM subjects.    Central Community College in Nebraska, for example, has a program called Project SHINE (Shaping High-quality Integrated Nebraska Education) that has both a teacher-training component and a STEM summer camp for 9th and 10th graders. Project SHINE director Dan Davidchik says that he has noticed "tremendous changes in the way teachers connect STEM with what goes on in business and industry."
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Now that computers abound in classrooms, what's next?  Some think that 3D printers could be the next high-tech classroom tool to transform the way students learn core STEM principles.
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Dozens of Indiana schools are taking part in Project Lead the Way -- an innovative program designed to prepare students for jobs in high-tech engineering.  Currently, more than 130 high school students participate in the program, enhancing their job prospects in a challenging economic climate.
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Here’s an opportunity for you and your colleagues to get the student perspective on the importance of peer-to-peer interactions in science research. The free webinar will take place at 5 p.m. PDT Tuesday, Nov. 1.

In this talk, Shiv Gaglani will describe the importance of peer-to-peer interactions to science education and research participation. A former participant of high school science competitions, such as the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, Shiv has since devoted much of his time to developing and sharing tools to help younger students get involved and take advantage of the immense opportunities available to them. One such tool is the book Success with Science: The Winners' Guide to High School Research (, which Shiv co-authored with his peers at Harvard -- all of whom also participated in and excelled at high school science competitions. November, 1 5pm pacific.

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