U.S. students need new way of learning science

Via Earthsky.org, a report from Michigan State University:

American students need a dramatically new approach to improve how they learn science, says a noted group of scientists and educators led by Michigan State University professor William Schmidt.

After six years of work, the group has proposed a solution. The 8+1 Science concept calls for a radical overhaul in K-12 schools that moves away from memorizing scientific facts and focuses on helping students understand eight fundamental science concepts. The “plus one” is the importance of inquiry, the practice of asking why things happen around us – and a fundamental part of science.

“Now is the time to rethink how we teach science,” said Schmidt, University Distinguished Professor of statistics and education. “What we are proposing through 8+1 Science is a new way of thinking about and teaching science, not a new set of science standards. It supports basic concepts included in most sets of state standards currently in use and complements standards-based education reform efforts.” […]

The 8+1 concepts were derived from two basic questions: What are things made of and how do systems interact and change? The eight concepts are: atoms, cells, radiation, systems change, forces, energy, conservation of mass and energy, and variation. […]

“The natural world seems to operate through these laws and concepts, but when it comes to schooling we don’t teach children these laws and then show how these apply in different situations,” Schmidt said.


Mending the Broken Link: The Critical Need for Science Teachers in Inner-City Elementary Classrooms

This beautifully-written personal account by Dr. Katya Denisova in NSTA Reports addresses one of the main reasons why I do what I do.

As I worked with K–5 teachers individually, I gradually learned that despite their excitement and willingness to carve out time for science in daily schedules packed with math and language instruction, one important factor impedes our progress. Many science lessons are almost entirely activity-focused, with little or no explicit teaching of science content. Students simply follow directions and carry out activities without being required to think about scientific explanations and reasoning. Some teachers hesitate to discuss scientific ideas with their students, fearing they may not be able to answer all the questions students may have. These teachers need science-content mentoring to boost their confidence in their ability to teach science. […]

Providing mentoring, coaching, and professional development in science content to our elementary educators is critically needed. Just like a pianist needs to know “do-re-mi” as the audience embarks on the discovery of the beauty of music, our preK–5 teachers need to know the fundamentals of science to capture their students’ imagination with the beauty of science.

Do We Want A Teaching Profession or Not?

From Renee Moore at TeachMore, part of the Teacher Leaders Network:

The uneven quality of teaching in America is directly proportional to our chaotic and archaic approaches to teacher preparation, certification, and evaluation.  My Teacher Leader colleagues and I, in our book, Teaching 2030, summarized the sad state of affairs at that point:

  • Over 600 alternative certification programs offering abbreviated pedagogical training (usually just a few weeks) to novices before placing them in some of the most challenging teaching situations.
  • 43 states require teacher candidates to pass some type of written subject area test, but only five require them to demonstrate knowledge of how to teach the subject.
  • Only 39 states require potential teacher candidates to do student teaching, and that may range from 8 to 20 weeks (out of the average 36 week school year).
  • In most places there are no requirements for who gets to supervise student teachers and no requirements that those supervisors should themselves be effective teachers who know how to mentor new recruits.

ExxonMobil Science Day at the Dallas Zoo

The Dallas Zoo’s 2011 Science Day Educator Workshop will be Saturday, October 1, 2011.

Who: Pre-Kindergarten – 8th Grade Educators
Date: Saturday, October 1, 2011
Time: 10am-4pm (must attend 4 hours)
Register: 2011 ExxonMobil Science Day at the Zoo Registration Form (PDF)

Calling all science enthusiasts! Science Day at the Dallas Zoo is a fun way for teachers, parents, and students to discover their community’s world of science! By participating in fun, hands-on activity stations, you’ll find new and exciting ways to bring science back to your classroom.

All educators will receive four (4) SBEC and TEEAC credits. Only pre-registered educators will receive free parking, admission, and a teacher’s guide.

Bring your family along! They can participate in the activities too! Please note: family members must pay regular zoo admission, only the pre-registered educator receives free zoo entrance.

Leaders in Science members, plan on meeting up outside the main Zoo gates a few minutes before 10:00 so we can attend as a group!