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Inquiry First.

How many middle and high school students that you know can describe what a biotechnology scientist does at her lab bench?  How many of their parents could rattle off the kinds of tasks performed by an electrical engineer?  Or the training required to design computer science tools such as Twitter or MMS?  Such knowledge is the domain of the well-trained scientist, and these days, the demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills is at an all-time high... and growing.

Project Engage! is an initiative that aims to provide students with just that -- the skills they need to tackle scientific questions and invent solutions.  It does so by putting students into the role of the scientist.  The program is being modeled in Everett, where Engage Everett! launched officially this morning.

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Framingham State University, which partners with MSSEF through MSSEF's Curious Minds Initiative to offer the STEM Certificate in Inquiry, is positioned to become an invaluable resource to teachers of STEM subjects.  As Massachusetts' first NASA Educator Resource Center, FSU will have access to a treasure trove of space-related materials for teachers.
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According to author Annie Murphy Paul ("Origins"), growing up in the digital age means that many of today's children are spending too little time tinkering.  "Research in the science of learning shows that hands-on building projects help young people conceptualize ideas and understand issues in greater depth," she writes.  Giving children the time and space to play and figure things out for themselves is an important part of setting them up to become young adults who have the capacity to do the kind of thinking that is needed for success in STEM courses and careers.
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A new study reveals that California's youngest students may be in peril of missing out on a foundation in science.  "High Hopes -- Few Opportunities: The Status of Elementary Science Education in California," funded by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, suggests that state and federal testing emphasis on English and math has resulted in science education being relegated to the back burner in the state.  Among the findings of the study: 60 percent of California school districts have no staff dedicated to elementary science, and 40 percent of elementary teachers spend an hour or less on science instruction each week.
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With women earning well over half the undergraduate and master's degrees and slightly more than 50% of the doctorates awarded in 2009 and 2010, more and more are entering typically male-dominated STEM fields.  The change is occurring slowly, fueled by the enthusiasm and dedication of trailblazing female professors like William and Mary's Elizabeth Harbron.
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On a percentage basis, fewer African-Americans are earning degrees in STEM subjects today than at any other point in the last decade.  What's behind the declining numbers?  While the U.S. currently is not known for churning out as many STEM professionals as it used to, there is a particularly notable dearth of new mathematicians, engineers, and scientists among African-Americans.
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Two honorees from the 2011 MSSEF Middle School Fair were among the 30 finalists to compete in the Broadcom MASTERS competition. Sponsored by the Broadcom Foundation, a non-profit organization funded by Broadcom Corporation, in partnership with Society for Science & the Public (SSP), the Broadcom MASTERS is a national STEM competition for sixth, seventh and eighth graders. The students displayed their projects during Broadcom MASTERS’ week (September 30 - October 4).

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A study conducted by Georgetown University shows that 65% of people with bachelor's degrees in STEM subjects make larger salaries than those with master's degrees in non-STEM subjects.  Holders of STEM certificates are sitting pretty, as well; many earn more than people with non-STEM degrees.

MSSEF's Curious Minds Initiative offers three courses that form the STEM Certificate in Inquiry. Curious Minds builds on nearly six decades of experience and success with more than 28,000 students in Massachusetts.  Developed in collaboration with the Education Development Center (EDC), the STEM Certificate in Inquiry is offered in partnership with Framingham State University.
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The Brookings Institution in Washington, DC held a conference this week called "Technology and the Innovation Economy: How to Harness New Engines for Growth." Experts included Intel CTO and Director of Intel Labs Justin Rattner, Senior Innovation Advisor to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Eric Nakajima, and Kevin Richards, Senior VP of Federal Government Affairs at TechAmerica.   Among the conclusions reached by the guests: Congress needs to do more to keep up with innovation in technology, and in order to do so a greater investment must be made in STEM education.
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