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This are excellent questions and very relevant to me because my middle school is in its first year of being a STEM focus school. I am the technology teacher and am considering this question very closely. Two resources that I will be using are Alice and Scratch, both object-based programming softwares. I'm sure you are familiar with both of them. The Alice site emphasizes the tremendous need to train more students in the area of computer science, particularly girls. As a middle school teacher, I am very interested about how I can engage and motivate students to not only be interested in computer science, but also have them continue on in high school to more advanced types of programming. Since we are in the early stages of implementing this focus, I have few specific thoughts or suggestings pertaining to your questions, but I am interested in seeing what others share.
The Intel resource, The Journey Inside, is great for introducing middle school students to computers overall.