Wednesday, September 16, 2020
For Immediate Release

Three Massachusetts Nonprofits Collaborate to Engage Schools
in an Inquiry-based Science ‘Survivor Island STEM Week Challenge’

Southeastern MA & Statewide Online – Engaging girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) is a key focus in this year’s MA STEM Week Theme “See Yourself in STEM”.  Three women-led Massachusetts nonprofits are challenging schools to design a system for water transport and filtration as part of their ‘Survivor Island STEM Week Challenge’ that will engage middle school students in a unique experience integrating science concepts and the engineering design process in an exciting way. The Wade Institute for Science Education, National Marine Life Center, and Lloyd Center for the Environment are teaming up to support schools in implementing a remote or in-person grade-level appropriate inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on science project that will enhance their students’ STEM skills.

Massachusetts K-12 schools are invited to participate in organization-sponsored Challenges as part of 2020 STEM Week, a statewide initiative to increase awareness of STEM education and potential careers, that is organized by the Executive Office of Education and the STEM Advisory Council in partnership with Regional STEM Networks. STEM Week is designed to be an equitable and inclusive series of educational events that bring together industry leaders and inspire youth to envision their future in STEM, and Challenges are designed to immerse students in hands-on learning experiences to further spark their interest in STEM careers. Focus is placed on the power of mentoring to achieve results and on the inclusion of minority groups in STEM fields. 

The Wade Institute for Science Education is the recipient of one of seven STEM Challenge grants awarded to Massachusetts organizations to facilitate student-led challenges during the October 19th – 23rd, 2020 STEM Week. Together with partners National Marine Life Center and Lloyd Center for the Environment, the Wade Institute is challenging schools to design a water transport and filtration system that will tap students’ foundational STEM Skills through an applied learning experience. All three nonprofits sponsoring the ‘Survivor Island STEM Week Challenge’ are excellent examples of women working in STEM and have the potential to excite middle school students, especially girls, to consider careers in STEM.  

Participating teachers will be supported through a professional development workshop and will be provided with a curricular guide and activity materials to use for their school’s ‘Survivor Island STEM Week Challenge’ project. Through pre-challenge training, educators will deepen their conceptual understanding in STEM and explore ways to integrate project-based learning experiences in their remote or socially distanced classrooms. They will also have the opportunity to construct simple circuits, experiment with alternative energy equipment such as solar panels and motors and build model wind turbines, and to discuss methods for engaging students in the Science and Engineering Practices using project-based learning models.

For the challenge, students must imagine that they have been stranded on a deserted island and the only source of freshwater is far from encampment. They must use their STEM knowledge and available resources to engineer a way to move water to the encampment and then filter so it is safe for drinking. On the last day of STEM Week, students will have an opportunity to participate in a virtual “Challenge Showcase” during which they will present to their peers and invited guests, such as representatives of participating STEM businesses and members of the STEM Advisory Council. Students’ presentations will demonstrate their learning and understanding of the engineering design process as they reveal their model, explain how it works, and share how it might be improved through redesign. Creative presentations will be encouraged.

How can schools participate in the ‘Survivor Island STEM Week Challenge’? Teachers should register online at or contact for more information. Participating educators will be supported by the Wade Institute through a teacher professional development workshops during which they will test their own hands at the ‘Survivor Island STEM Week Challenge’.

About the Wade Institute for Science Education

The Wade Institute for Science Education is a 501 (c)(3) Massachusetts-based nonprofit dedicated to hands-on, minds-on, inquiry-based science education. We connect classroom teachers and informal educators with science, technology and engineering content expertise, inquiry-based instructional methods, regional STEM resources, and peer learning communities. We help educators discover firsthand the value of inquiry-based learning, and master innovative ways to spark students’ curiosity for STEM. For more information, visit or call 617-328-1515.


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