What can schools do to increase interest in science, technology, engineering, and math?

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Ruth Garber (not verified)

Science, math and

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Science, math and engineering are disciplines that tend to be linear in process and the people/teachers that pursue these areas tend to be linear in their thinking and presentation. For students to get excited about these seemingly dry areas of the curriculum, they need to encounter enthusiastic, creative teachers who are so excited about their content that they find ways to light that fire in the students. It is not that they are not knowledgeable about their content, but as past learners in classrooms we all know that good teaching requires much more than content and pedagogical knowledge. In my opinion it additionally requires enthusiasm and creativity, which, unfortunately, cannot be taught through staff development. In my experience (over 30 years) the teachers who have this enthusiasm and creativity are the most effective teachers of math, science and engineering. These teachers naturally bring in the hands-on, project-based learning opportunities that are needed for the students to make the connections required for sustainable learning. To improve student performance in all content areas, but specifically in math, science, and engineering, we need to find ways to attract enthusiastic, creative people to the teaching profession. On the face of it, it seems simple, but if one takes a close, honest look at schools, it must be realized that schools are bureaucracies that often work to systematically close down enthusiasm and creativity which is difficult to manage and evaluate. Unfortunately, the current trend with some school administrators, at both the school house and central office levels, is to seek cookie cutter approaches to teaching that are "teacher proof" and easy to manage and evaluate. Ridiculous! The bottom line is that the best, brightest, most enthusiastic, creative people need to be in the classroom at some point in their career, if not for their entire career. Therefore, schools need to have environments and climates that invite and support this kind of out-of-the-box teaching with our children.
Carmen (not verified)

This question was so set up

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This question was so set up to get a biased result in favor of the first option of project-based learning that it isn't even a valid poll. The truth of that matter is that there is no benefit to be gained from project-based learning until some semblance of traditional lecture and learning has first taken place. The students need to have some background to foster relevant ideas for further learning through group projects. And therefore, the RIGHT answer is that first the No Child Left Behind restrictions must be loosened to allow more teaching time in the classroom that is not strictly based around a standardized assessment. I wouldn't want to be a child in the schools today until the ill effects of George Bush's policies are merely a footnote in the history of education.
Walter Fechter (not verified)

For far too long America has

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For far too long America has steered an entire generation towards education for monetary gain--not for the betterment of the human condition here on earth. Our motives behind an education have become far too self-absorbed. We all need to rethink and reevaluate something that we all learned in English class--"I, Me, Mine." For yet another matter, I know of one individual whom I have admired greatly since I learned how to make sense of the printed word. His name is Ray Bradbury. Mr. Bradbury, through his great short-story prose, taught me more about being a sensitive and critical-thinking human (using ones' imagination), than a host of college professors ever could. Mr. Bradbury never attended college, yet he still remains one of America's greatest short-story writers and visionaries. Like Einstein, Ray Bradbury brought the universe to us all by the devices of the human imagination. That, in and by itself, is what brings us all closer to ourselves and to our Creator. Bring the world of imagination into our classrooms and see the difference it makes in the lives of our students, both young and old. George Lucas has some great ideas! Thank you. Sincerely, Walter Fechter
Paul Ache (not verified)

It is easy to use NCLB and

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It is easy to use NCLB and other "restrictive" policies as being the problem with schools today, but if the curriculum, the teaching methods, and the standardized tests are aligned, then teachers better be teaching to the test. With that said, I believe that integrating science and technology into other aspects of the curriculum is the best way to show that these subjects are exciting and worthwhile. This implies that teachers need more professional development to present these subjectsq in an effective and integrated way. I love the idea of guided inquiry, but this needs, as stated above lots of support from everyone, parents, teachers, administrators, and society. There is also an economic factor here. Districts need money to do the things that are necessary to improve instruction in these areas. But, some things can be done in avery cost effective way, without the need for external funding.
Ira Schwartz (not verified)

Math and science have

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Math and science have generally been taught as if they did not apply to anything real. When students are exposed to the application of their knowledge, particularly to things to which they can relate, they are much more willing learners. This has been verified by teachers who have received in-service education in making connections between the subjects of math, science and a modern technology/engineering oriented education program.
Laura Sanderford (not verified)

When children are in

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When children are in elementary school, they still have the capacity for being excited about learning. Their natural wonder of the world still thrives. We need to start science at this age, but not from a book. Hands on experiments and engaging projects will capture their imaginations and help guide them toward an interest in science. At the middle and high-school level, the classes should continue to be more hands on and interactive. Science from books alone is drab and lacks the kind of wonder that is science. Of all the subjects, science lends itself to be exciting when presented in an active well thought out format that includes higher level thinking skills, projects, experiments, and interactive activities
Barry Golden (not verified)

I believe there are two

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I believe there are two critical factors that must be addressed: 1. Provide professional development beginning in early grades (include administrators) on problem/project based learning with specific focus on thinking skills; 2. Implement problem/project based teaching and learning that becomes a systemic part of every teacher AND ADMINISTRATORS responsiblity. The above two items, when interwoven with 21st century skills using 21st century tools in a contemporaty context will develop the scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and problem solvers that will give a new level of energy and creativity to the nation. We must remember however, this is 2006 and since "Rome wasn't built in a day" our new scientist and engineers are still several years away. In the absence of this effort, we will "continue" to follow Rome's path.
Doretta Perna (not verified)

Increase the interest? Have

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Increase the interest? Have them learning "hands on" rather than sitting in a chair being lectured or doing worksheets. Make the TEST disappear, and do authentic assessment. Let them construct their knowledge. Give them tools so they can show what they know.
Melissa Sleeper (not verified)

I think students should be

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I think students should be exposed to more science and math at earlier grades. Project based activities are one way. Another would be to let some of the students questions drive instruction. Children are naturally inquisitive and science is the perfect vehicle to answer many of their questions. Teachers (and administrators) need professional development that shows them how to use guided inquiry in our standards based assessment world. We need to get better at integrating instruction and pointing out that the science process skills are similar if not the same as skills good readers use when reading.
Bonnie Bracey Sutton (not verified)

This is a lively discussion.

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This is a lively discussion. But to those of us who toil across the digital divide our question is who took the S and T out of STEM. This is what the report said. A report released yesterday by a committee on science education says K-8 classes are in "urgent need" of improvement, just as schools must for the first time assess students on the subject under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The report by the National Research Council, the main operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, said that the past 15 years of reform have produced few positive results and that science education too often is based on faulty notions of how children learn. "We are underestimating what young children are capable of as students of science -- the bar is almost always set too low," the report said. "Moreover, the current organization of science curriculum and instruction does not provide the kind of support for science learning that results in deep understanding of scientific ideas and an ability to engage in the practices of science." The report, sponsored by the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the Merck Institute for Science Education, reiterates concerns that have been expressed for years by business leaders and educators who fear the country is in danger of losing its scientific superiority because of a poorly trained workforce. It also cites the continuing achievement gap between white and Asian students and economically disadvantaged black and Latino students. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/21/AR2006092101570_pf.html The truth is that reading , writing and arithmetic are what they wanted to be taught , so those of us teaching science caught difficulty from administrators, educational leaders, and supervisors ( except the science supervisor). This has been going on in my ethnic community since the end of slavery. People assume that we can't do science , so they read it to us. Hello, reading science is not doing science. We in the trenches are told what to do, and teaching science well is not one of the missions. Even when there are teachers with the skills, there is a blind spot in the face of education particularly for minorities. They always think , well put this off, they can get it later. No so. The other things is that a lot of teachers don't have good experiences with teaching science, or lack resources. Even when I had resources, a couple of times I had administrators who did not understand science. It is hard to teach when that happens. Bonnie Bracey Sutton
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