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prof opinion science experiment

Education and business leaders, the press, and the president have all called for increased emphasis on STEM in K12 schools, and NGSS, the “Next Generation Science Standards” released in April are a response to those priorities (www.nextgenscience.org). The standards do an outstanding job of defining science and engineering for our time.

A student at the Beech Hill School in the Otis (Maine) School Department learns chemistry in a hands-on science lab over Skype.

Four students in Maine had the unique chance to study organisms on their shoreline this past year to help contribute research to a new chemical bond discovery that Vanderbilt University researchers made three years ago.

Recognizing that American K12 students have fallen behind foreign students in their grasp of scientific principles, educators have devised a new set of teaching guidelines that will radically change the way science is taught in classrooms across the United States—including recommendations that climate change and evolution be taught as core elements of scientific knowledge.

It’s not a new reality show: Exploration Nation helps students understand STEM.

In April, three Texas middle school students joined marine veterans and a team of surgeons on a 12-day expedition through the jungles of Central America, learning about sustainable agriculture, reforestation, and ecosystems, and helping create a mobile surgical clinic for an indigenous Nicaraguan tribe that lacks access to medical treatment.

The expedition was part of a science education program called Exploration Nation, featuring real students applying STEM topics to the real world.

School Specialty Path Driver for Reading School Specialty recently released Path Driver for Reading, an online screening and progress monitoring platform that predicts reading proficiency for students in grades K-10 using research-based assessments. Educators can schedule automatic oral fluency assessments, monitor progress, and view progress reports that include intervention history.
Eighth-grade honors students work on a physics experiment to determine the acceleration of marbles. The district is focusing on improving science literacy, through professional development.

Two-thirds of California’s elementary school teachers feel unprepared to teach science, according to High Hopes—Few Opportunities, a study of science teaching and learning that was conducted recently by the University of California at Berkeley. On the state science test administered to fifth-graders last year, only 55 percent achieved or exceeded proficiency in the subject. On the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, California ranked near the bottom in fourth-grade science scores.

By the fall of 2012, the Next Generation of Science Standards will be available for states to adopt. Part 1 of the process, the Framework for K12 Science Education, was released July 19 by the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS). Traditionally, states have developed their own individual standards by extracting components from science benchmarks set forth by organizations such as the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Girl doing chemistry exercise

Three years ago, sophomore environmental science students at the Science Leadership Academy (SLA) in Philadelphia needed a problem to solve. But they weren't just looking for any old problem; they wanted a big one, a real-life one that could make a difference in the world—one that would challenge them to be creative, to work in teams, to think and plan and build, and, by the way, to allow them to meet all of the state and local standards for the class.

Ask any random college educated American adult to recall the processes of cell respiration so painstakingly memorized in freshman biology, or to rehearse the dates of the Progressive Era that had been absorbed as part of the standard American history survey course, and you're likely to receive a blank stare, proving something that cognitive scientists have been shouting from the rooftops: Coursework focused on memorization of a broad body of content knowledge will not produce the sort of learning that lasts.

While most schools are under increasing pressure to improve the STEM education of their students, finding more effective—and cost-effective—ways to teach science concepts can be a challenging task. But as with many dilemmas in education, the right technology, when properly implemented, can be a big part of a successful strategy.

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