15 years after the publication of the National Science Education Standards by the National Research Council, new standards have been put forth to help America Compete. Are these standards really new or are they an implementation of the 1996 NSES recommendations we have all been hoping for?
In 1983, the publication of a A Nation At Risk by the National Commission in Excellence in Education spurred national awareness and concern as to how America can compete in a global economy. Since then, a plethora of recommendations for keeping America competitive have focused on improving education. (Details can be found in the Recommended Books section of our e-library). The 1996 National Science Education Standards provided a blueprint for improving science education so we can sustain our leadership in the global scientific enterprise. It is based on ways of implementing science education that was proven by extensive research on teaching and learning science. The standards outline what students need to know, understand, and be able to do to be scientifically literate at every grade level. The Standards define what learning science means and gives guidelines to access when students are learning science.
According to the Standards “Learning science is something that students do, not something that is done to them. ‘Hands-on’ activities, while essential, are not enough. Students must have ‘minds-on’ experiences as well.”
Providing these learning experiences embodies the high quality science education that can help U.S. compete in a global scientific workforce. What does “hands-on” and “minds-on” mean? Increased student engagement in the material being learned. When you engage a student/learner in science, you foster creativity and innovation which is derived from every human being’s natural curiosity to navigate and shape the world around them by learning from it, and discovering ways to shape and master it.
Now that you have engaged the student, what should a scientifically literate and technologically person know and be able to do? Science is a field where all scientists are aware that one experiment or discovery can change the current body of knowledge and understanding in science. Thus, to function in a scientific society, one has to be able to be willing to learn from your experiences and solve problems as they occur. Two broad classes of skills are required to do this:
- First is the ability to take any problem and determine whether a scientifically investigable solution can be used to solve this problem. There are several areas of our lives where rationalization is not appropriate for solving problems that arise. If you are scientifically literate, you will know what approach to use and when.
- Second is a deep understanding of how to use the tools of science to solve problems, create new knowledge and products from simple ideas and so on. Developing these skills takes a very long time which starts with a strong foundation for scientific problem solving in grades K -12.
Our inability as a nation to faithfully implement and execute the Standards for all our children is why U.S. leadership in science is eroding. Each year, the Condition of Education report published by the Department of Education reminds us that in spite of all the real and imagined social-economic, racial and financial barriers to educating all of our children, access to high quality science education is what limits the participation of students from all segments of our society in the STEM workforce.
Fortunately, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the New National Science Education Standards (NNSES) currently under development will provide more direction to help teachers educate future leaders, innovators, discovers in STEM. As with all standards, these New Standards provide recommendations for teaching and not what teachers should teach. Why? To increase student engagement in science, teachers need to be creative and innovative as they strategize, plan and deliver their engaging science lessons. One important implication is that professional development and teaching resources must also be created to support teachers in their efforts to be creative and innovative in the classroom. This is Why Science’s goal.
Increasing engagement in science in a society where there is little interest, knowledge or understanding of science (let alone its impact on daily life) is a very challenging task. How can teachers faithfully implement and execute all Standards and still do what they do best – be creative and innovative in the classroom? This is where WHY SCIENCE can help you.
If you attend our workshops or participate in our upcoming webinars, we will help you answer the following questions:
- How do I gain the breadth and depth of scientific knowledge necessary to fulfill the expected outcomes of the various science Standards?
- How do I harvest the natural curiosity of children to make learning science “cool” and “fun” while teaching science and 21st Century skills for success in STEM fields?
- Where do I find readily available and affordable resources to provide a high quality science education experience to my students?
Feel free to contact us if you’d like more information on our workshops or if you’d like to bring workshops or webinars to your group!