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STEM Roundup: New Schools, Video Game Challenge, Top-Paying Jobs

I've come across a number of noteworthy STEM developments in recent days that I figured I'd bundle into one post, including reflections from educators in new STEM schools, the winners of a STEM video game contest, and an analysis of top-paying jobs for recent college graduates. Also, a STEM consultant shares five tips for effective STEM education.

First, at a time when many new STEM-focused schools are cropping up around the country, the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network is posting on its blog essays from educators about their experience in the early days.

The principal of the STEM School Chattanooga describes the challenges of creating a strong focus on project-based learning and getting students to use technology in more sophisticated ways to enhance their learning. "It all sounds great, right? It certainly was not easy," he notes.

A language-arts teacher at a STEM middle school describes her strategies for infusing literacy skills into the curriculum. "The truth is, I've learned this year that the role of the language arts teacher in a STEM program is nothing short of essential," she writes. "My job is to help these STEM students gain the collaboration and communication skills they need to bring their science, technology, engineering, and math skills to fruition in the marketplace of the 21st century."

Three more Tennessee STEM educators will post their reflections on the blog over the next few weeks.

Speaking of STEM schools, yet another one, the Barbara Morgan STEM Academy, named for the astronaut, will open its doors this fall, according to this profile in the Idaho Statesman. (An Education Week story from 2011 highlights the recent surge of interest in creating STEM-focused schools.

Meanwhile, Forbes magazine recently published an article on the highest-paying STEM jobs for recent college graduates. Below are the top three, and the median salary for those with three or fewer years' experience.

• Petroleum engineer ($88,700)
• Nuclear engineer (($62,900)
• Marine engineer ($62,200)

Finally, earlier this week, the winners of the third annual National STEM Video Game Challenge were announced. You can read a quick synopsis of the winners here. They include a game that takes you to Stemville, a "STEM-themed virtual world players can explore" while playing various games that help build math and science skills, and another involving Auto-Miner, an android built to mine in extreme conditions.

I'll close with a quick mention of a Huffington Post piece on "5 Steps to STEM Effectiveness," written by Doug Haller, a STEM education consultant. He notes that both defining and implementing STEM education continues to be a challenge to the education community.

"From my experience, it helps to recognize that STEM disciplines do not exist in isolation from each other and incorporate what many call 21st century skills," he writes. "With this recognition comes the responsibility or more positively, the opportunity, to creatively combine disciplines and skills to engage students on many levels

Here are his tips:

  • Create a common, working definition of STEM
  • Provide teachers and administrators the time and flexibility to collaborate
  • Identify and address ingrained barriers to improving STEM equity and instruction
  • Engage outside partners early
  • Don't get hung up on the acronym.
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