Curious Minds Initiative

How to guide your students from the classroom to science fair success!

Teachers talked and we listened! In response to requests for more support in your classrooms, MSSEF developed three courses to help you take three steps toward a student-centered classroom and student independent research projects that will qualify for a science and engineering fair. These steps are exactly the steps that will enable you to integrate the revised MA STE Standards into your curriculum.

CMI Courses

Three Steps for STEM teachers – a CMI course for each step!

  • Integrate science and engineering practices into your existing curricula - no need to start with new curricula!
  • Guide your students to develop stellar Independent Research Projects in STEM.  
    • Course: Teaching Science through the Inquiry Process (TSIP)
  • Develop classroom projects that:
    • Evolve over a period of time
    • Ask students a specific question that data and analysis will answer
    • Prepare students to ask and answer their own questions through independent experimentation
      • Course: Project-based Classroom Science (PCS)
  • Organize a school science and engineering fair, and manage a classroom with students working on different project topics.
    • Everything you need to guide your students through the research & innovation process
    • Learn how to navigate the regional/state science fair process, including required research forms, using MSSEF’s online wizard
      • Course: Organizing a Science & Engineering Fair (OSEF)

These graduate courses are part of MSSEF’s Curious Minds Initiative (CMI) and are offered in partnership with Framingham State University (FSU). Completion of all three courses for graduate credit earns teachers the “STEM Certificate in Science & Engineering Practices” from FSU.

Want more information? Click on the course name in the box to the right for details about the 2017 courses and to enroll. Spots fill up quickly, so register as soon as possible. A limited number of tuition scholarships are available thanks to our CMI donors!

Science Fair Mini-Grants for Schools

Apply Now! Rolling Deadline: please note that applications received after November 30th will apply to the next school year cycle.

Grants up to $4,000 to start a sustainable science fair program in your school!

Eligible Schools:

All schools with grades 6-12 in Massachusetts that currently do not offer, OR wish to expand their annual sustainable Science and/or Engineering Fair program with teams of teachers who wish to bring science & engineering practices into their classrooms.

Benefits of becoming a GEMS school

  1. Grants up to $1,000 for the first year; or up to $4,000 for a sustainable 3-year program.
  2. Tuition Scholarships for CMI Courses for up to 5 STEM teachers enroll in
  3. Science Fair consultant to visit your school upon request
  4. Invitations for Teachers & School Leaders to:
    • Join meetings of the MSSEF High School Committee that helps to shape policy and organize the statewide science fair programs.
    • Attend MSSEF Educator Day (free) at MIT – a look behind-the-scenes at the statewide Science & Engineering Fair for high school students held annually in May.

Collaborative History

The Gelfand Endeavor in Massachusetts Schools (GEMS) teamed up with the Massachusetts Science & Engineering Fair (MSSEF) through its "Curious Minds Initiative" (CMI). The collaborative goal is to help increase the number of Massachusetts schools and teachers that use inquiry and project-based learning for teaching STEM. GEMS aims to inspire students through direct engagement in the discovery process and the excitement of science fair competition.

Over the past seven years, MSSEF data demonstrates that teams of teachers from a school are twice as successful as individual teachers in preparing their students for the science fair experience, suggesting the importance of multiple teacher participation and if possible, school-wide.

Through partnerships with individual schools and districts, GEMS provides science educators with the requisite training, resources, and tools to integrate real-world, inquiry-based learning activities into their existing curricula, and to create school-based Science & Engineering Fair Initiatives. GEMS has funded 46 Massachusetts public and charter schools over 3 to 5 years and is currently working with 20 schools (87% in high-needs districts).

Click here for a list of GEMS Schools supported by the Gelfand Family Charitable Trust

For more information on how to become a GEMS school, email us at:

STEM Mentors for Students

MSSEF partners with school districts to create an after-school STEM mentoring programs for students. Professionals from local STEM businesses and STEM college majors help to both guide students working on independent research projects and to support STEM teachers.

In Lowell, MA – 200 middle school students joined after school STEM Clubs at all middle schools. Students work 1:1 with mentors as they develop independent research and innovation projects for the district’s new science fair.

To inquire about the CMI Student Mentoring program for your district, email us at:




CMI Courses

Course 1:

Teaching Science through the Inquiry Process (TSIP)

Motivate Your Students with the “Real World” Discovery Process Provides teachers with practical strategies to infuse more inquiry into their teaching practice and existing curricula. TSIP is a hands-on course, and science teachers bring 2-3 of their existing labs or classroom activities that they will adapt in order to make greater use of inquiry-based techniques.

WHEN: Monday - Friday, August 14-18 & November 4, 2017, 8:30 am - 3:15 pm

WHERE: Worcester

GRADUATE CREDITS: 3 Please Note: teachers who want to enroll for graduate credit will receive an application from MSSEF, which must be submitted with payment of fees before the course begins.


:: More about TSIP

Course 2:

Project-Based Classroom Science (PCS)

Teach Science Concepts with Exciting & Challenging Project-based Units Enables science teachers to develop effective project-based units for targeted science concepts, and also provides an introduction to guiding students who work on independent research projects.

WHEN: Monday - Thursday, August 7-9 & November 4, 2017, 8:30 am - 2:30 pm

WHERE: Worcester

GRADUATE CREDITS: 2 -- includes online component. Please Note: teachers who want to enroll for graduate credit will receive an application from MSSEF, which must be submitted with payment of fees before the course begins.

:: More about PCS

Course 3:

Organizing a Science & Engineering Fair (OSEF)

Help Your Students Learn to Think for Themselves! Provides a framework and guidance for best practices in the logistics of managing a classroom with students working on independent research on different topics, and running a science fair program and building district-based support for it.

WHEN: Thursday & Friday, August 10&11, 2017, 8:30 am - 3:15 pm

WHERE: Worcester

GRADUATE CREDIT: 1 -- includes online component. Please Note: teachers who want to enroll for graduate credit will receive an application from MSSEF, which must be submitted with payment of fees before the course begins.

:: More about OSEF

MSSEF Educator Day at MIT

Apply for a travel stipend and/or matching support for a substitute teacher! A special free conference held on Friday during the State Science & Engineering Fair for high school students @ MIT. Highlights include: walking the Exhibition Hall of 300 “Best of the Best” high school student science fair projects in Massachusetts; a seat in the Judge Orientation Program (with ~300 judges from academia and industry); feedback and discussion inquiry and project-based approaches in your teaching practice; and breakfast and lunch.

TEAMS of teachers from the same school district and CMI course participants receive priority for enrollment and scholarships.

WHEN: May 5, 2017, 8:30 am - 2:30 pm

WHERE: MIT, Cambridge, MA

:: Registration