We share evidence-based K-12 learning strategies that empower you to improve education.
I agree - interest in science starts at a young age. One project that has been effective for me and other Teachers I have spoke with, is to grow the world's most interactive plant. The TickleMe Plant is native to Brazil and other tropical places but can now be easily grown indoors as a fun house plant. What makes it so much fun and exciting to grow, is that it is the only plant that moves and closes its leaflets when Tickled. This is just one creative way to excite kids about nature but I love hearing others. To see the plant in action and or to grow your own.
Search TickleMe Plant or find it here. http://www.ticklemeplant.com Everyone says
wow the first time they see the plant in action. The classroom kit comes with 4inch flower pots and all the supplies needed including the TickleMe Plant Care book.
Interest in Science starts at a young age - we need to make sure all students have access to quality STEM education early on (hence professional development is needed). Children are very interested in the world around them and teaching science feeds into that energy. This should not be done in lieu of English, Art, History, etc. but in conjuction with it (students learn about the cycle of life (science), write about it, complete an art project...).
As students progress, we need to continue to provide mentors, engaging STEM programs and get beyond science has being a memorization of facts (aka dry as commented above). By addressing these issues, students would be more motivated to pursue STEM careers and courses and be exposed to the 21st century learning that is embedded in STEM
Let’s get some things straight... First of all, STEM is a methodology for instruction that can lead students to STEM related careers. The closest content area that actually looks like STEM is something that is called "Technology Education" in some states, and/or "Engineering and Technology Education" in others.
That content area actually has students apply Technology, Innovation, Design and Engineering content in what students learn and do.
Unfortunately, people still look at this content area as "shop" and therefore it must be for kids who are only good with their hands. I say phooey! The minds, knowledge and skills learned by these students can be at a much higher level than recitation. These students use and apply engineering and technology. Furthermore, they use science and math as tools to design solutions to oftentimes very complex design briefs.
Let us keep in mind that STEM is about all parts and not the silos. If STEM is to be achieved, the center part of STEM known as "Technology & Engineering Education" by the ITEEA must be focused on and ramped up AND STEM needs to be defined as more than just science or just math.
Interest in Science and Maths would improve greatly if careers involving science, maths and engineering attracted public interest and the high profile and earning capacity of sports people, music, movie, media personalities!
When I was studying architecture in the 1980's we had a veteran professor who retired out with my graduating class. He reflected that architectural education was perhaps the last true broad liberal arts education, but not particularly good at training us to actually practice architecture. 20+ years later that still rings true. What we did glean from the 6 years of studio-based study was synthesis, creative problem solving, comprehensive thinking, and self criticism. In short we didn't exactly learn everything we needed to know but we sure did learn to learn. I believe much of that can translate to middle school and high school curricula via project based learning. (I am now a school board president and parent of 2 kids, ages 7 & 11.)
In order to improve intelligence in these subjects, teachers, parents, and curriculum designers need to understand what age-appropriate teaching is. Certain human capacities unfold in a lawful progressive order that is understood most thoroughly by Waldorf/Steiner educators. Teaching by the wrong method or wrong subject level too early will drain the child of resources that are needed to support him later development. Healthy movement, lively imagination, and guided observation are the keys to learning before puberty. Then starting with puberty, the student is ready to tackle pure conceptual/philosophical thinking, higher maths, the inorganic sciences, the basis for modern technology, and theories of physics. The child will stay engaged and absorb immense amount of material if presented with "artistic flair" at the appropriate age level. I'm always amazed that more people don't understand and use the Waldorf teaching indications.
I'm not sure why we still think we can "command" interest from the top down, be it with project-based learning or more teacher PD. We don't want better "science teaching", we want a system which ignites and sustains a love of science and math and all areas of learning. Our current system just isn't set up to do that. Nobody really wants better schools, what everyone wants is for learners to be able to learn at the upper end of their untapped potential. School, with its factory metaphor and model, was fine for the early 20th century, but pretty much peaked when manufacturing in this country did. We need new metaphors and new models. We can do this. Our quest for the 21st century ought to be to let learning "go viral"!
I believe that project-based learning and career-oriented curriculum can be helpful, but what I think would be most effective in expanding Science, Technology, Engineering and Math would be more community-based extensions of lessons. Children helping a farmer's market or community garden project would expand their experiences while at the same time making Math, Science and Technology relevant and useful in their everyday lives. Doing the math for a carpet installation, balancing ledger entries, and civil engineering projects in the community make for more interesting topics and engagement.
The first step is to get rid of standardized testing and mandatory curriculum. Allow teachers the freedom to teach science creatively, making it relevant to the world the kids are living in today. Get rid of the agrarian, out of date education system.