My grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau was once quoted as saying, "Before we talk about the environment, we must talk about education." It's one of my favorite quotes of his because at its root is his belief in the power of youth to change the world. It's not only a belief I share, but one that I'm confident is our best opportunity to tackle some of biggest challenges facing our planet and the world community.
I'm not an alarmist, but we truly are in an environmental crisis, headlined by, but not limited to, global warming. Given the importance of the challenge, I'd like to see a National Environmental Education Year -- setting aside a week seems like a drop in the bucket. But since we have this week, National Environmental Education Week, let’s make the most of it.
There is lots of talk about the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) pipeline and all of its leaks. My personal mission is to fill the STEM pipeline with so many children that it bursts. To do this, STEM must be taught in an inspiring way. To keep children engaged, we need to bring passion for learning back into the classroom.
Teachers brought in outside clients to request and evaluate student aquaponics designs, which sent a message that student thinking and creativity were valued by the extended school community. Photo credit: Bill Palmer
In last week's post, my colleague Adrienne Curtis Dickinson introduced seven key elements of problem-based learning at Sammamish High School. These key elements guide both the professional learning experiences for Sammamish staff and the ongoing PBL curriculum design. This week is our chance to share the variety of ways that the key element of student voice has been incorporated into teaching and learning.
Today is World Water Day. We're mostly made of it -- about 60% of the human body is water. We need a lot of it -- you can't survive more than a week without it. And we've got a finite supply -- only a fraction of the water on our planet is drinkable. Yet many of us take it for granted.
Students at Sammamish High School. Photo credit: Gabriel Miller
Sammamish High School is a comprehensive high school that is on the cutting edge of public education. Like many schools, we serve a diverse student body, with 45% of our students receiving free and reduced lunch support. We also serve a high percentage of special education students relative to other district schools, and currently house the district-wide program for beginning and intermediate English language learners. We have had good success with college matriculation rates, but as a community, we saw an opportunity to better serve our students and foster in them the skills and habits of mind that will make them competitive in the new economy. Along the way, we are challenging ourselves to re-imagine how school can better serve students through collaboration, authentic problem solving, and opening windows between the disciplines of school and the broader community.
As a society, we learn about the world and advance our well being through science and engineering. The United States may be known around the world for its higher education, but compared to many other leading and steadily emerging countries, we lack a strong focus on educating scientists and engineers. One significant reason that we have fallen behind is that we do not encourage our female students to pursue career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
MC2 STEM High School is an unusual year-round public school of about 270 students, located in Cleveland, Ohio. The school emphasizes integrated project-based learning, partnerships with business professionals, and real-world internship experiences to help students understand the crucial link between academic achievement and their future economic success. We visited their school and spent time with the dedicated adults and enthusiastic students who have helped create the school’s success. Take a look at this video for a glimpse into three students’ experiences there.
Today marks the birthday of Thomas Edison, that American icon of innovation. At a time when the U.S. is facing a critical shortage of students interested in science, technology, engineering, and math, it's worth remembering how Edison built a pipeline of thinkers who tackled the STEM challenges of their time.