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Dedicated to the art and science of inquiry-based learning.
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Beyond Cookies: Girl Scouts Bite into STEM

Beyond Cookies: Girl Scouts Bite into STEM | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

Through new partnerships and a recently overhauled badge system, Girl Scouts of the USA is providing more opportunities than ever for participants' exposure to STEM fields. Given that far fewer girls than boys typically chose STEM-related occupations, the opportunities newly offered by the Girl Scouts could prove valuable.

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Colleges Chosen to Participate in $50 Million Science Education Initiative

Forty-seven small U.S. colleges and universities have been chosen by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to receive funding for the creation of collaborative, engaging undergraduate science classes.  “Collaboration is a vital activity that drives science forward,” said HHMI President Robert Tjian. “We believe that collaboration among institutions can have a similar catalytic effect on science education, and we look forward to seeing these schools work together to develop new science and teaching programs that inspire their students.” 

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Most 8th Graders Fall Short on NAEP Science Test

Most 8th Graders Fall Short on NAEP Science Test | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

The bad news: In a sampling of 122,000 8th graders from more than 7,000 schools across the country, fewer than one-third demonstrate proficiency in science. The good news: Massachusetts students fared a bit better than most, with 40% of those tested scoring at the "proficient" level.  Results of another science test administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) will be released in June.  This test measures students' proficiency in hands-on experiments.  "We're very, very interested in tasks that look more like real science," said Sean P. “Jack” Buckley, the commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers NAEP.

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Changing Times Mean Changing Recruitment Strategies for STEM Employees

Changing Times Mean Changing Recruitment Strategies for STEM Employees | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

Once focused on college and university grads as the primary source of potential new employees, more and more companies that need workers with solid STEM skills are looking at talent in middle and high schools. So says James Brown, Executive Director of the STEM Education Coalition. "To the extent that you’re really trying to look at the big picture ... [companies are betting] that if we make the pipeline stronger there, it will have ripple effects upwards," he says. And how do you encourage and nurture talent at the K-12 level? Make STEM subjects fun. Get students excited about STEM through inquiry-based learning, and competitions like science fairs. Clearly, corporate resources can have a tremendous impact on improving the quality of STEM education in the country, and more and more corporations seem to understand that the eventual payoff -- in the form of well-trained employees -- is well worth the investment.

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How Can Social Media to Spur STEM Engagement?

Let's face it: Social media plays an integral in the average high school student's life. While some parents and educators might be prone to view Twitter, Facebook, and the like as distractions to the young people in their lives, an interesting blog post by George Washington University biomedical engineering student William Broman suggests that there's a flip side to that assumption.  His article on US News & World Report's STEM Education blog suggests ways in which creative educators might consider leveraging the technology to encourage engagement in STEM subjects.  Broman concludes, "Higher education, including my school, and businesses are using Twitter and Facebook to communicate effectively with students or customers and solve problems--it's time for high schools to do the same."

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Ways to Put the “M” in “STEM”

Ways to Put the “M” in “STEM” | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

A post by Grace Suh on the Citizen IBM blog offers a former English major's perspective on the importance of math education for both college and career. Suh emphasizes the need to "bring math to life for young people" through an approach that offers context in addition to conveying skills.  Resources that she suggests include IBM's free iPad app, "Minds of Modern Mathematics," and the hands-on learning website Teachers TryScience. 

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Using Music to Improve Math Skills

Using Music to Improve Math Skills | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

A lot of learning can happen at the juncture of math and music, according to music teacher (and blogger) Ruth Catchen. From learning fractions to gaining an understanding of space and proportion, students can pick up many mathematically relevant skills from their music studies. "The arts inspire creativity, self-expression, critical thinking and problem solving," she writes. "It is an opportunity not only for students to open the door to see how things are made, why things happen, and discover another way to do something, but also to experience in real life and action how mathematical concepts and functions relate to music in a tangible way."

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Great Teacher Thrives in Unique Habitat

Great Teacher Thrives in Unique Habitat | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

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!

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Design-Based Learning: A New Paradigm for STEM Education

Design-Based Learning: A New Paradigm for STEM Education | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

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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Making Project Based Learning Authentic

Making Project Based Learning Authentic | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

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 have yet to be solved, or even questions that have yet to be asked – are the students who are most prepared and will be most sought after." What existing programs and projects exemplify STEM(+) for Good? Vanides points to several in his blog post, including The Challenge of Water Quality project, Engineering Projects in Community Service, and the Center for Digital Inclusion.

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Tufts University Takes Innovative Path to Building Enthusiasm for Tech

Tufts University Takes Innovative Path to Building Enthusiasm for Tech | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

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. 

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Re-Thinking 'Seat Time' Requirements

Should proficiency in a school subject really be tied to how long a student physically spends in a classroom "learning" that subject? It's a question that more and more states are asking, with 36 having relatively recently adopted policies that loosen the link between credits and seat time.  Quite simply, "having a seat in a class doesn't guarantee you anything," according to Jason Glass, director of the Iowa Department of Education.  The trend has its detractors, of course, who question whether online learning can adequately fill the gaps that diminished seat time requirements might leave.  Rita M. Solnet, a member of Parents Across America, said, "A teacher inspires students. A laptop can't do that."

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Cool Resource: Afterschool Snack's STEM Pages

Cool Resource: Afterschool Snack's STEM Pages | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

"Afterschool Snack," a useful blog focused on quality afterschool and out-of-school learning programs, has redesigned its STEM pages for even greater ease and navigability.  Features including STEM-specific funding opportunities, policy updates, local program listings and resources, an interactive calendar, and more make the STEM section an invaluable resource.  Check it out!

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Good News, Bad News, and No News About Education

Good News, Bad News, and No News About Education | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

A blog post this morning by Change the Equation offers a concise assessment of the recently released government report, "The Condition of Education." The good news, according to Change the Equation, is that the past two decades have seen rises in 4th and 8th grade math scores.  On the flip side, 12th graders haven't fared as positively, with numbers relatively stagnant over the same time period, causing concerns over "evaporating gains" between 8th and 12th grades.  The "no news" referred to in the post's title?  Information on where 12th graders stand in science.  Due to the change in science frameworks, looking at data over time would be meaningless.  Change the Equation makes the point that no news is actually harmful: "If we're serious about getting many more students ready for college and careers in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), we can't very well tolerate such a serious blind spot in 12th grade."

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From The Trenches: How I Attracted Nearly 300 Kids to AP Computer Science | Citizen IBM Blog

From The Trenches: How I Attracted Nearly 300 Kids to AP Computer Science | Citizen IBM Blog | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

With the statistics pointing overwhelmingly to a dire need for STEM-trained students to graduate into the US workforce, the question remains: How do educators break down the barriers that can prevent some perfectly capable students from enrolling in STEM courses?  On the Citizen IBM blog, AP Computer Science teacher Seth Reichelson offers up some answers based on his own experience.  Among his suggestions: "[make] computer science more accessible and rewarding" by using mastery learning, and communicating directly with parents when a student gets a bad grade.  By building confidence and taking some common-sense approaches to communicating, "everybody wins," Reichelson says.

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Lexington High Wins Energy Department’s National Science Bowl

Lexington High Wins Energy Department’s National Science Bowl | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

Congratulations to Lexington High School, which triumphed over North Hollywood High to secure the top place in the high school division of the Energy Department's National Science Bowl. The five student members of the team receive an all-expense paid, nine-day Alaska adventure!

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Meeting Inquiry Halfway

Meeting Inquiry Halfway | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

It can be nerve-racking for teachers to surrender control of a classroom in order to let inquiry-based learning in.  A recent post on eMINTs' blog, "Networked Teaching & Learning," guides teachers on ways in which to move gradually toward a model of open inquiry rather than diving in with both feet.  Among the recommendations offered: consider where each lesson lies on a "continuum of inquiry"; some are more naturally suited to closed inquiry sessions than they are to open inquiry.  In addition, the article suggests that a teacher try to limit the questions that he or she provides, allowing student questions to propel the experience.   "There are many small things we can do in order to make inquiry part of our lessons and units of study without jumping into student-led inquiry headfirst," the article states. "If you struggle seeing your students as able to complete an inquiry independently, but you want to make your lessons more open, meeting open inquiry halfway might be a suitable compromise."

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50 Best Sources of Free STEM Education Online

50 Best Sources of Free STEM Education Online | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

These days, there's no need for anyone interested in pursing greater knowledge of STEM subjects to be constrained by course offerings at their local schools and universities. The Internet opens up a world of possibilities for the studious and curious alike. OnlineUniversities.com has put together a list of 50 free, online sources of STEM education, including lectures by Ivy-league professors and Nobel Laureates, IT tutorials, educational media from lie likes of National Geographic and NASA, entire courses, and scholarly articles. 

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The Decline of STEM Education in the U.S.

The Decline of STEM Education in the U.S. | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

An interesting infographic by Teach.com illustrates the downward trajectory of STEM education in the US. Starting in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik, the infographic tracks various threads of data through the years, from STEM doctoral degrees conferred to US versus non-US citizens annually to the percentage of top-performing high school students who major in STEM.  It's a well-designed, thought-provoking piece that brings the current challenges facing STEM education to light in living color.

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Treehugger's Best of Green: Science

Treehugger's Best of Green: Science | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

Treehugger takes the opportunity to shine a spotlight on the "best-of" in many categories, from people to products. In the "Science" category, Treehugger honors inspirational initiatives, projects, and products that are making a real difference in the world. Of particular note: "Rescue Spider" by the Frauhofer Institute, the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature Project, studies on what is killing bees, the Graphene Water Filter, and the "Seafood Watch" app.  Check out the Treehuggers slideshow of the 2012 Best of Green Science honorees here.

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Learning STEM in Classrooms Modeling the Future

Learning STEM in Classrooms Modeling the Future | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

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, blueprint and drafting software, and tools that are being used in the real world on actual work sites."  Furthermore, the built environment will feature sustainable features like solar roofs and rainwater harvesting capabilities, providing students with concrete examples of how advances in technology can help solve real-life challenges. 

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Corporations Seek Greater Role in STEM Education

Corporations Seek Greater Role in STEM Education | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

Apparently perceiving the implications of an indequately 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.

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Behind-the-Scenes Look at Science Fair Judging

Behind-the-Scenes Look at Science Fair Judging | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

The 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 put more than 1,000 hours of work into their project by then.  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 http://massscifair.org/hs_judges. ; Please email any questions about judging at a MSSEF event to judginginfo@scifair.com.

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Ideas for 21st Century Global Curriculum

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, these ideas 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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Why Scientists Should Do Outreach

Why Scientists Should Do Outreach | Curious Minds | Scoop.it

In his blog, "Arthropod Ecology, Christopher M. Buddle, Associate Professor in McGill University's Department of Natural Resource Sciences makes the case for a scientist's responsibility to do outreach. The five points he makes supporting his argument are: 1) scientists have specialized expertise; 2) scientists have credentials; 3) scientists are critical thinkers; 4) scientists are communicators; and 5) scientists are passionate. For all these reasons, scientists have the knowledge and power to alter perspectives and inspire others. Read Buddle's whole post here:

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