Massachusetts Governor provides back to school update

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BOSTON (Mass.gov) – The Baker-Polito Administration announced that the third annual STEM Week will take place this year from October 19-23 through a mix of virtual and in-person events, lessons, speaker panels, and design challenges, all adapted for the new school and work environments as the Commonwealth continues to combat the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Administration encourages teachers and employers to develop new and creative ways to host STEM Week events to highlight opportunities that exist in science, technology, engineering and math. 

“This year made it abundantly clear how important STEM professions are to all our lives, and we hope that more young people will explore the opportunities that exist in STEM fields and pursue those careers that benefit us all,” said Governor Charlie Baker.

“Across our Commonwealth, nurses and doctors are saving lives, scientists are working furiously to develop a vaccine, and advanced manufacturers quickly shifted gears to produce personal protective equipment,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito, Co-Chair of the STEM Advisory Council. “Battling COVID-19 highlighted how crucial the need is for young people to study science, technology, engineering and math, and our administration remains committed to paving pathways to STEM careers and education for students in and out of the classroom.”

STEM Week is a collaborative effort between the Executive Office of Education; the STEM Advisory Council, which works to generate interest and support from the business community for STEM Week activities and is co-chaired by Lt. Governor Polito, Congressman Joseph P. Kennedy III and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Executive Chairman Jeffrey Leiden; and the Commonwealth’s nine Regional STEM Networks, which plan and coordinate activities with local school communities, community leaders and business partners.

“Since the Baker-Polito Administration launched STEM Week two years ago, tens of thousands of students of all ages in every region of the Commonwealth have participated in engaging, challenging, and fun learning experiences to help get them hooked on STEM,” said Secretary of Education James Peyser. “Notwithstanding this year’s unique circumstances, the STEM Council and STEM educators are committed to sustaining the momentum with exciting activities, both online and in-person.” 

“Getting kids hooked on science is all about creating fun, hands-on experiences where they can explore these topics in the real world alongside scientists and mentors,” said Jeffrey Leiden, M.D., Ph.D., Executive Chairman of Vertex. “Those experiences might look different during a pandemic, but as leaders and educators, we have an opportunity to innovate in how we deliver them to students. At Vertex, we created an all-virtual summer internship experience for our Boston Public School partners, and we’ll continue to work with the community to ensure students – particularly women and those who are underrepresented in STEM – have the opportunities they need to succeed.”

“Rebuilding our economy, health care system and society in the wake of this pandemic will require a new generation of workers with experience in STEM fields,” said Congressman Joe Kennedy III. “Students in virtual or physical STEM classrooms today will lead our recovery in the months and years ahead, and we need to support them in any way possible.”

Strengthening STEM education in the Commonwealth’s K-12 schools is a priority of the Baker-Polito Administration. The STEM Advisory Council is appointed by the Governor and includes education and business leaders in STEM industries that work to promote STEM education, partnerships among industries and schools, and internships for students.

In Massachusetts, more than 40 percent of all employment revolves around STEM innovation industries such as clean energy, information technology, defense and advanced manufacturing.

This year, the STEM Advisory Council is coordinating with seven organizations across the state to offer options for STEM-focused Design Challenges. Design Challenges include:

Kids In Tech: Cybersecurity – Keeping Our Networks Secure Challenge: A STEM Week Challenge for students in grades K-5, 6-8, and high school, Kids in Tech asks students to think their way through standards-based activities to consider how the internet works and how they can use the internet safely. By participating in puzzle-solving games, students will explore how individuals can use the internet to obtain information and how they can make sure their personal information is safe.                

Museum of Science – Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals: To allow educators and students to see themselves in STEM, the Museum of Science, and EiE, an award-winning leader in Pre-K-8 curriculum, have developed three engineering design challenges to share with educators and students across Massachusetts. These activities engage learners in standards-based design challenges to support the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (https://sdgs.un.org/goals).

Gale Force Education – Power Grid Explorations: This challenge will bring the excitement of power engineering to  high school students, wherever they are. Life may not seem normal right now, but electricity is flowing and the lights are on—thanks to the power grid. Students will explore the grid and how it works through a hands-on design challenge designing generators, model houses and a mini power grid.                      

FitMoney – STEM Business Plan Challenge: STEM and financial literacy are critical components of a quality education as today’s students prepare to become the innovators, entrepreneurs and job-creators of tomorrow. The FitMoney team has created a design challenge that gives middle school students the opportunity to think critically and create solutions to address issues students face today. Through a socially conscious lens, students will design a product, and produce, market and sell their product, learning the critical elements to starting a business venture.             

MIND Research Institute in partnership with STMath – Math Maker Project – Play, Create, ShareThis STEM Week Challenge was developed by the New England Aquarium, One8 Foundation and Mass STEM Hub, and MIND Research Institute, creators of ST Math! Students in grades K-5 will promote math learning and connect with families virtually. The entire project is built around games and stories with historical significance and is designed to develop students’ creative problem-solving capacity as they create their own math game – one that drives math knowledge and meaningful connections.

WPI STEM Education Center – I Am STEM, STEM I Am!: This challenge (for PK-5 students) focuses on solving problems in books and is designed to empower students to become proud problem solvers. All lessons are aligned with grade-level ELA and math/STE standards, can be done in the classroom or remotely, and use every-day & recyclable materials. Free online professional development sessions are available between 9/8 – 10/17, guiding teachers on the problem-solving process, online tools, and trying out a lesson with colleagues. The I am STEM lesson library will be available to all educators before, during, and after STEM Week.

Wade Institute for Science Ed – National Marine Life Center – Survivor Island Challenge: The Survivor Island Challenge will provide students with a unique experience that integrates science concepts and the engineering design process in an exciting way. The Challenge? “You have been stranded on a deserted island and the only source of freshwater is quite a distance from your encampment.  You must find a way to move water to the encampment and then filter it to make it safe to drink.” Teachers will receive a curriculum guide and support from the three sponsoring organizations. Students will have an opportunity to participate in a virtual “challenge showcase” on the last day of STEM week. Teachers participating in the pre-challenge teacher workshop will receive a kit of materials to help their students “See themselves in STEM.”           

During STEM Week, members of the Baker-Polito Administration and the STEM Advisory Council will virtually visit classrooms and other school and business-related STEM activities that showcase successful programs and raise awareness about developments in STEM education and the STEM workforce. Last October, the Administration held the second annual STEM Week in collaboration with schools, non-profit organizations, colleges, museums, and business partners, where more than 1,000 events took place that engaged over 10,000 students from pre-kindergarten through college.

Learn more about regional events managed by the Regional STEM Networks across the Commonwealth in collaboration with local museums, non-profit organizations, schools, and local business partners at www.massstemweek.org

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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