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Inquiry First.

Last week in Chicago, French and American scientists held a meeting of the minds to compare and contrast their respective approaches to science education.  France's mandate of primary school science reform, instated in 1996, emerged as a key difference.  To date, the U.S. has not seen any unified effort to revitalize science education to the extent that France's La main a la pate has.  Prior to 1996, science was taught in less than five percent of French primary schools.  Now, that number is between 30 and 40 percent.  Among the challenges facing science education cited by representatives from the two countries: Teachers' insecurities about their own science knowledge and scientists' concerns that engaging in too much public outreach could cut in on valuable time in the lab.  Read more about the "Cross Fertilization About Shared Experiences" conference.... Read More

York Regional Academy Regional Charter School is a breeding ground for future science fair competitors.  Currently serving grades K-2, the school has plans to grow to serve students through grade 12.  Following an International Baccalaureate program, the school is inquiry-based, with the students guiding instruction.
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Lori Smolleck, assistant professor of education, at Bucknell University, emphasizes the use of inquiry-based teaching to promote critical thinking in science education. "Teaching science as inquiry encourages students to ask their own questions and find their own answers based on evidence," she says. "This may take a bit longer, but the rewards associated with increased student motivation and interest, as well as the resulting depth of understanding and the acquisition of sophisticated knowledge of scientific content, are well worth the extra time."
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NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says that his agency is committed to ensuring that the next generation is prepared to take on leadership roles in the STEM disciplines.  NASA has made STEM education the basis of its learning initiatives, with an eye to addressing the crisis in education and ensuring that America has the technical expertise to compete successfully in the new global economy.
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A bill introduced yesterday by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) that would revise No Child Left Behind seeks to improve instruction in STEM subjects a the elementary through secondary levels, improve student engagement in STEM, and close the achievement gap when it comes to college prep for minorities in STEM subjects.  The bill also permits states to use funds to lure professional scientists and engineers into teaching careers.
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We knew it all along: Engaging teaching methods can make a difference for students!  A new report written by Cary Sneider of Portland State University, titled "Reversing the Swing from Science:  Implications from a Century of Research," looks at a wide variety of research for insights into how to build and maintain interest in STEM among students.

Beginning with John Dewey's 1913 essay, "Interest and Effort in Education," the report examines deductive research conducted over the past century to arrive at several conclusions.  Among them: Attitudes are malleable, and a variety of interventions have the potential to increase student's engagement in STEM activities, courses, and careers.  Furthermore, the report concludes that, while young people like science, they do not necessarily enjoy it in school.  Teachers, teaching methods, and curriculum are key to student engagement.

An enjoyable and fascinating read, which can be found here.

More good reasons for students to participate in science fairs: In September, the Afterschool Alliance released a new report assessing the impact of STEM learning in afterschool programs. “STEM Learning in Afterschool: An Analysis of Impact and Outcomes” found that the nation’s urgent need for students to learn science, technology, engineering and math skills can get a significant boost from afterschool programs. Specifically, attending high-quality STEM afterschool programs results in improved attitudes toward STEM fields and careers, increased STEM knowledge and skills, a higher likelihood of graduation among students.


Winners from among 10,000 entrants in the first-ever Google Science Fair received a once-in-a-lifetime prize: A trip to the Oval Office to meet with the President of the United States.  The three students -- all girls, ranging in age from 14-17 -- also met EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Dr. John Holdren, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
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In a time when crowded classrooms, diminishing funding, and testing mandates seem to stack the deck against teacher innovation, MIT has stepped in with BLOSSOMS (a cheerful acronym for Blended Learning Science or Math Studies) video lessons to breathe new life into science teaching.  With a video library of more than 50 lessons -- all of them freely available to teachers -- BLOSSOMS brings the presence of a “guest lecturer” into the classroom to supplement the classroom teacher’s lesson.  The 50-minute video modules aim to enhance, rather than replace, teaching, putting the teacher in the role of guide.  Topics in the Blossoms Video Library include “Using DNA to Identify People,” “Can Earthquakes Be Predicted?” and “Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship.”  The library is searchable by content unit (by grade and subject), and by education standards.  Learn more about BLOSSOMS here.

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