Wednesday, March 27, 2019
For Immediate Release
Quincy, MA – In the early eighties, it was becoming evident that college-bound students were no longer interested in science and engineering. Numbers of young adults registering for these programs at colleges and universities nationwide were dropping, which meant that there would soon be a shortage of qualified professionals contributing to American society through science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers. A few key members of the Massachusetts STEM education community came together to address this growing problem, and in doing so, laid the foundations of the Museum Institute for Teaching Science.
At a 1983 executive committee meeting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Corporation, President Dr. Paul Gray expressed his concerns about the issue to a fellow Board member and longtime supporter of Boston-area museums, Emily V. Wade. Mrs. Wade, endearingly known as “Paddy,” had received her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from MIT in 1945. She was also the second woman to serve as president of MIT’s Alumni Association and an Emeritus Life Member of the MIT Corporation.
Paddy’s passion for science had led her to become active with the Museum of Science and Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, as well as to serve on the Boards of Mass Audubon, Manomet, Technical Education Research Centers (TERC), and Zoo New England. Through her experience supporting local science organizations, Paddy had witnessed that museum staff held the resources and expertise to engage young learners in exciting ways.
During a dinner party at her home, Paddy asked Dr. Gray to talk about the need to excite students for STEM. Together, they challenged directors from the Museum of Science, Boston Children’s Museum, Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology, Mass Audubon, Arnold Arboretum, Franklin Park Zoo, and the New England Aquarium to design a program that would spark students’ interest in science. The goal was simple, “get kids to like science.”
The museum directors formed a collaborative organization, the Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS), and designed a program that would provide teachers with hands-on, minds-on pedagogy and practical experiences that they could use in their classrooms to more effectively engage their students in STEM. In 1986, MITS launched its first summer institutes as three-week long professional development opportunities that focused on the teaching methodology of inquiry-based learning. Following the first Summer Professional Development Institutes, MITS received support from the Cox Foundation and the National Science Foundation, which allowed the collaborative to add partners (Springfield Museum, Worcester Museum, Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, and Manomet), and adapt their programs to better serve the needs of teachers.
When the time came in 1992 to determine the future course of MITS, Paddy took the initiative to acquire the 501(c)(3) nonprofit license and sought out a Board of Directors and small support staff. Since then, MITS has grown its partnerships to over 100 STEM organizations throughout the Commonwealth and expanded its programs to include a Professional Development Seminar Series and Customized Professional Learning Services.
In January of 2019, the Museum Institute for Teaching Science (MITS, Inc.) changed its name to the Wade Institute for Science Education in order to better reflect the organization’s services and to honor its founder, Emily V. Wade. Paddy is still actively involved with the Wade Institute for Science Education, serving as its Board President and volunteering her time to contribute to the success of STEM education in Massachusetts.
The Wade Institute for Science Education specializes in providing inquiry-based, hands-on, minds-on, science, technology and engineering professional development for K-12 teachers and informal educators. For more information, visit www.wadeinstitutema.org or call 617-328-1515.