So, I just looked back over my blog and what do you know? It has been nearly a month since I last “mused”. What happened? Where did the time go? My only possible explanation is that I was abducted by aliens at some point during the last month and held captive without the ability to blog. Yeah, that’s it. That’s what happened. I was abducted!!! But now I am back, and ready to go, ready to blog, ready to share my thoughts with those who are foolish enough to read them. In other words, here is a new blog post.
In the last post I promised that this time I would actually talk about teaching stuff and that is what I intend to do. You know how sometimes you are just sitting there and BOOM, the perfect thing falls into your lap. You find a $5 bill in your pants pocket that you forgot or you arrive at class to find that the one student who makes your classroom crazy is home sick today? Well, I was pondering what to do with my post when all of the sudden, there in my email inbox, was the answer. From NSTA (National Science Teachers Association) there was the perfect topic. The Horizon Report (http://science.nsta.org/nstaexpress/2012-NSSME-Full-Report1.pdf for those who want to read it for themselves. It is riveting, I assure you!). For those who are not science teaching nerds, the Horizon report survey over 7,000 math and science teachers across the United States to measure the state of math/science education in the United States. And what did it say? Frankly, it scared the hell out of me.
Among other things, it showed that:
- More than 80% of elementary school teachers feel very well prepared to teach reading/language arts while less than 50% feel the same about science.
- While math is taught in nearly all elementary classrooms daily, fewer than 1 in 3 fourth–sixth grade classrooms are teaching science daily, and only 1 in 5 K-3 classrooms receive daily instruction in science.
- Few teachers, at any level, feel prepared to teach engineering – a key component of STEM.
That is alarming. That is scary. That is preposterous!!! What happened to the education system that helped put a man on the moon? What is going on? The answers are really too complex to be addressed in a humble blog post, but what ever the reason, there needs to be a change if we are going to compete in the future.
I live in the Seattle area and here, Boeing is king. You cannot swing a dead cat (I am in no way supporting the swinging of cats, dead or alive, by anyone) without hitting someone who works for Boeing or is related to someone who works for Boeing. And guess what? Within the next 5 to 10 years, it is predicted that nearly 60% of Boeing’s technical workforce will be at the retirement age. Who is going to replace them? And that is only one area. What about computer science? What about general science? Who is going to work to cure cancer or solve climate change issues?
So, here is my solution! Teach science. OK, so maybe it is not quite that simple. But really, when we get down to it that is what it is about. If we are to educate our kids, we must educate them in all areas that they are going to need in the future, not just those that are tested in the spring on high stakes tests. So, I challenge each and every one of you to step out of your comfort zone and try an experiment with your kids. A quick Google search will show a host of lessons that you can do with little prep time. Heck, it can be as easy as taking 2 playground balls (a small one and a big one), and dropping them. Then drop them with the smaller ball on top of the bigger ball and watch what happens. The energy from the large ball will be transferred into the small ball, sending it flying up high (this is best done outside). Or make a hovercraft out of a CD and a balloon (http://sciencesquad.questacon.edu.au/activities/cd_hovercraft.html).
It does not need to be complex to be exciting for kids. It doesn’t even need to be 100% correct the first time. But if we don’t take on this work, if we don’t at least try, then what is to become of science education in our nation? Yes, it is scary. Yes, it can be intensive. Yes, it can be daunting. But it can be done. I believe in you. And I believe in your students. They deserve it. And truth be told, you do to. You deserve to share with them the wonder around them.