MIT Stem Pals
September-October 2015
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Creating Scientific Discovery in the Classroom
GessermanAt the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, scientists are dedicated to the bold mission of using the full power of genomics to transform the understanding and treatment of disease. The office of education and outreach at the Broad Institute works with middle school and high school students to convey not only the exciting scientific breakthroughs that Broad researchers and their collaborators make each day, but also an understanding of the promise of biomedical research and what it means to be a scientist at the Broad. Recently we have begun developing curricula that challenge students to conduct their own scientific investigations using the same data and techniques that Broad scientists use. By putting real data into the hands of students, they are given an authentic opportunity to think like a scientist by coming up with their own conclusions and interpretations of the data. Read more.

MIT Undergraduates Provide “Keys to Empowering Youth” in KEYS STEM Program
Kiara Cui, Rebecca Gallivan, and Elysa KohrsKEYs is an MIT Society of Women Engineers (SWE) program for 6th to 8th grade girls, held once a month on Saturdays during the school year. The mission of our program is to empower young women in STEM through hands-on activities which focus on engineering and science-based problem solving. We also expose the participants to a vast array of STEM fields through tours and interaction with cutting-edge research laboratories as well as women student and faculty speakers at MIT. Our program also looks to provide strong female role models and mentors to help ignite and maintain these middle schoolers’ interest in science and engineering as well as provide an environment which supports the mentality that STEM is for women, too! We focus on collaboration, application, and leadership skills for our participants and ultimately hope that they take what they learn at KEYs and use it as a tool to spread these thoughts, ideas, and passion to their peers. Read more.


Implementing Biograph in Your Classroom to Explore Complex Systems
Dianna CowernBiograph is a series of high school biology units and support materials designed to explore complex systems using agent based computer models. The program improves comprehension of biology by allowing students and teachers to experience simulated biological systems from the level of their individual parts (e.g. organisms or molecules)—looking closely at how each part in a system behaves and how its interactions with other parts in the larger system result in emergent patterns over time. Biograph uses a blocks-based programming language called StarLogo Nova to help students engage with the simulations while building computational thinking skills. You can access the Biograph resources here. Read more.

OECD Report Finds that Computer Use in Classroom Is No Silver Bullet for Increased Learning
Elizabeth MurrayFor the past 10 days since the Organization for Co-operation and Development report was first issued, there have been many dire headlines written about it. However, it is important to dig a little deeper into what the report said to understand the significant conclusions it came to. For this report, entitled “Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection”, researchers compared data – from 64 countries including the US – for the period from 2009 and 2012, the most recent sets of testing under the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The report examines the relationship among computer access in schools, computer use in classrooms, and performance in the PISA assessment. It also discusses differences in access to and use of ICT – known as the “digital divide”– that are related to students’ socio-economic status, gender, geographic location, and the school a child attends. Finally, the report highlights the importance of bolstering students’ ability to navigate through digital texts. Read more.