Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
We absolutely should improve science teaching in the classroom, and the folks at NSTA, AAAS, and many other places are trying to do that. To truly transform achievement, though, will take a larger effort. It starts with accepting the scientific process as something that children can understand and use. The next step is to give them time to use it - in after-school programs, museums, parks, etc. Finally, these opportunities must be extended to those students who may not get such experiences from home.
I recommend two things: 1) Don't let these headlines be a flash in the pan. 2) Don't place all the burden for a solution on our teachers and schools. The whole community can be part of scientific learning.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
professional development is the best way to go, sometimes you just have to find something to do right away. I recommend that you start at the Science Afterschool Toolkit for an overview of what a program should look like. Once you are ready to pick out some activities, here are some places to look:
- Consumers Guide to Afterschool Science Resources - I've mentioned this before.
- Exploratopia - The Exploratorium* has a new collection of hands-on science activities. (The Coalition's own Thomas Carlson came up with the name - see the credits in the back!)
- Afterschoolmath.org - If you need math activities right away, this site includes video demonstrations and all of the details you will need.
*CSAS is partially funded by a grant through the Exploratorium.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
At the opening plenary session, attendees will hear from Cathy Jordan of SEDL, who directs the Partnership - supporting development of high quality programs that balance academic enrichment and youth development, and Jane Quinn of the Children's Aid Society. Jane is a Coalition board member and an overall guru of youth development. Check out Jane's thoughts on community schools, science in after-school, and in Youth Today.
Among the relevant workshops, Patricia McClure from SERVE will present the after-school science toolkit, which contains resources to help after-school leaders build fun and educational enrichment activities.
At the closing session, attendees get to hear from Gretchen Walker of the American Museum of Natural History and author of the NASA and Afterschool report, and me. We plan to provide an engaging experience that shows how learning science in after-school can be fun as well as educational.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Hopefully no one interprets this to mean that we should make our kids hate math. As the report's author, Tom Loveless, states, "What’s clear from these findings is happiness is not everything." At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I refer you to Engagement, Capacity, and Continuity. Student engagement is one piece of the puzzle, but it has to be connected to the rest of their learning needs. High quality after-school math and science will keep our kids interested, but it has to connect to the classroom and other life experiences.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Developing a strong volunteer base for after-school is something that must be done deliberately. After-school leaders need a consistent commitment, and scientists and engineers want to feel like their unique skills are helpful to the program. This usually happens with a local connection and often with an intermediary, such as a museum. (WGBH has developed partnerships with several engineering professional groups.) FIRST Robotics is a good example of a group that has standardized a practice for recruiting volunteers in support of its local chapters.
As for individuals, here are the thoughts of a scientist preparing to volunteer his time with high school students.
If you have other examples of strong volunteer programs, please share them with me.
Friday, October 13, 2006
Please note that these are just a few of the programs out there. If you know of more outstanding programs, please post them on the Science After School Wiki.
- Ocean Institute: Located on the Pacific coast between San Diego and L.A., the Ocean Institute provides hands-on, immersive experiences to youth and educators. According to its website, the institute serves more than 78,000 K-12 students and 6,000 teachers annually. Through an NSF ITEST grant and a partnership with a local Boys and Girls Club, the Ocean Institute is extending its unique opportunities to underserved populations. For more info, visit the Ocean Institute and the EDC page on the grant.
- Intercultural Center for Research in Education (INCRE): INCRE has been developing and field testing the Afterschool Explorations in Science (AXIS) curriculum. These modules embrace a model of co-inquiry, instructors and students learning together. “AXIS recognizes that leaders need to be able to ask good questions to encourage participant inquiry. Leaders are not expected to have all of the answers to the questions, but do promote thinking through the questions that they ask.” This is particularly relevant to after-school, where instructors may not be science experts. INCRE is now seeking urban partners to field test AXIS beyond the Massachusetts area.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
While in Boston, I met with representatives of the Timothy Smith Network of community technology centers. One of the many programs offered by this network is part of the After School Astronomy Project, developed in partnership with MIT's Kavli Institute. Students are engaged in actual astronomy - learning to process digital images and look for astronomical phenomena. They are even able to take their own images, using remote-controlled telescopes provided by the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
Other outstanding programs for high school students combine science learning with employment, either as apprentices with professional scientists and engineers or as instructors for younger children. The St. Louis Science Center offers both types of opportunities through its award-winning Youth Exploring Science program.
Perhaps the future of after-school STEM learning for high school students is being developed in Chicago. With a grant from Abbott Labs, After School Matters is developing a science component to its already successful programs in arts, technology, sports, and communications. Keep your eyes on Chicago as pilot programs begin soon.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
"In a nationally televised Oval Office address Tuesday, President Bush expressed the concern that if Iran is allowed to enrich its students unchecked, many of them could end up anywhere, with some potentially landing in major university centers in New York and Los Angeles.
'The U.S. stopped enriching its students decades ago, and we call upon Iran to do the same,' Bush said."
Friday, September 22, 2006
I am starting to build a wiki page with some more examples of competition programs. Feel free to add more information.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
EEC's efforts are not just about teaching math and science skills. They start with a focus on equity - ending discrimination based on gender, race/ethnicity, disability, and level of family income. The need for changing attitudes about science and math and offering engaging learning opportunities follow from this.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
“Einstein was a kind of physics hippie, a man whose creativity was inseparable from his refusal to play by the rules of academia and buy into its comfortable certainties. He reminds me of Bob Dylan kicking out an electrifying “Like a Rolling Stone”… Einstein could easily have compromised…Instead he chose a line of work that allowed his thoughts to hum freely until they spun out the song of special relativity.”
“every natural philosopher before Einstein, going back to Aristotle and beyond, accepted some version of [absolute space with variable physical laws.] Einstein arrive at special relativity almost purely from an examination of logical flaws in the then current theories of physics, flaws that were evident for all to see. … He insisted on examining the workings of the world at a more rigorous level than even the most illustrious of his predecessors, until he was totally certain that the system made sense. His requirement of total consistency forced him to take seriously the problems that his predecessors and colleagues alike had swept aside as trivialities or unanswerable…”
Can education, like physics, be revolutionized by a “Swiss Patent Clerk,” looking at the fundamental things that fade into the background for those too close to the issues? Clearly this has already started to happen with fundamental laws of schooling being challenged by grassroots or non-“establishment” efforts (See Deborah Meier, KIPP, High Tech High, and more!)
Einstein’s revolution was built upon critical work by Maxwell and others, and relativity was only acclaimed after being confirmed by findings from other researchers. We can expect an education revolution to be preceded and followed by critically important work by established experts. But the lesson of Einstein is that anyone out there can push the fringe, even challenge the fundamental principles – the length of the school day, governance, funding streams, or anything that needs to change if every child is to succeed.
Monday, September 11, 2006
On a personal note, after winning multiple math awards throughout my youth, I hardly considered a math or science major in college. Special thanks belong to the middle school principal and Teach for America staff who trusted me to bring my passion for math to a 6th grade classroom!
Friday, September 08, 2006
Our efforts in education must include all three pieces:
- Engagement - "The spark" that gets a child interested in learning.
- Capacity - "The skills" needed to continue to the next level of understanding.
- Continuity - "The pathways" that provide access to higher learning and careers.
Some educators worry that hands-on, inquiry-based science does not actually lead to higher-order understanding. Yet, quality inquiry learning is considered necessary by all of the major science standards (NSTA has a good position paper summarizing this.)
Some policy makers think that a child with an interest in science and the skills necessary to achieve success will find the path to a career. However, there are many more obstacles, especially for the millions of children living in poverty, who choose jobs over career-related internships, or who cannot afford college. Even given the resources, a child may never pursue a science or engineering career if they have never seen a role model - someone who looks like them - follow a similar path.
So, as we meet the challenge of raising a generation of science and technology workers, let us keep in mind that there are many pieces to the puzzle. Luckily, none of us faces that challenge alone.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
In an essay submitted to NASA as part of the 2005 report on NASA and Afterschool Programs, David Hammer and Janet Coffey offer the following as one recommendation of how NASA can contribute to after-school science learning:
"Highlight controversies and confusions ... for children to learn how science progresses through argumentation, they need to be able to see some. At one level, they need to see, simply, that disagreements are not only inevitable, but productive; scientists like to find things to argue about, because arguments are opportunities for learning.
... this can happen at different levels, depending on the students. Early, it may be enough for them to see that scientists argue in these ways; later, they can start to understand the specifics of a debate. Then the objective can be for them to see the logic and evidence on either side, even if—especially if!—the controversy is not yet resolved. If the main objective were students’ acquiring knowledge, this might be counter-productive, because they’d hear conflicting ideas. But we second the reports’ view that this shouldn’t be the main objective; that’s already the focus in schools. Instead, NASA can help afterschool provide something that doesn’t happen in class, opportunities for students to see and experience how the game is played.
For the same reasons, it is helpful to display mistakes and confusions that happen in authentic science. Students need to see that scientists shoot and miss, as they do in basketball. It’s not the same as having a teacher tell them it’s okay that scientists make lots of mistakes; they’d get much more out of having access to particular examples and the people involved."
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
That raises the question for the after-school field (as well as for elementary educators) about how to deliver professional development. There are many successful programs out there that depend on good trainers. How do we offer the same quality professional development to the thousands of after-school leaders across the country?
One way is to use technology. the National Partnership's toolkits include videos that demonstrate teaching techniques. Over time, I would like the Coalition for Science After School to develop a video library with many examples of quality after-school science learning.
The other option is to develop an army of instructors, available to deliver quality professional development at every regional, state, and national conference. This will presumably cost more, take more time, and be more difficult to maintain than a video library, but the results could be spectacular!
Monday, August 21, 2006
Meanwhile, a similar effort is underway to engage young people in STEM learning through mass media.
Of course, this is nothing new. A steady stream of shows from Mr. Wizard to 3-2-1 Contact to Bill Nye the Science Guy, Jake's Attic, and ZOOM have entertained and educated kids for many years. Today's shows are working harder to connect their original product directly to youth through classrooms and after-school programs. The Discovery Channel was a major sponsor of the 2006 NSTA conference, and forensic science has also taken off among science educators thanks to CSI's popularity. I'd like to highlight some PBS shows in particular which are connecting to after-school around the country:
Cyberchase, produced by PBS-affiliate WNET in New York City, is an entertaining animated series that teaches standards-based math lessons. The program's website includes materials and other educational tools for parents and teachers. Furthermore, WNET supports professional development for educators from both formal and out-of-school time education.
Following the success of ZOOM, WGBH in Boston is offering two new science and technology shows. Fetch targets younger students. Design Squad, which targets middle grades with a reality show-like design competition, is due for release in February. Both programs have been designed with connections to educators in mind. The WGBH team offers materials and trainings in support of educators who are using the show. Note that the Design Squad educator trainings specifically target out-of-school time education through the Girl Scouts of America and the National Afterschool Association.
Finally, Dragonfly TV, produced by Twin Cities Public Television, offers a number of high quality materials in support of its science inquiry show. Dragonfly models the inquiry process and then encourages children to apply inquiry methods at home and in their communities.
These are just examples of the many high quality programs that are available. Surveys, research, and common sense tells us that students do not need more hours of traditional schooling, but they do need engaging activities that connect them to real-world science and scientists. Mass media has the potential to offer these programs, and, by connecting what they see on television to what they encounter in school and in their communities, educators can multiply the impact.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
My attempt to add to this discussion may be pointing out the obvious: we cannot expect to succeed if we stop our interventions with youth at 3 PM every day. In the hours beyond the core school day, students should explore their interests and develop skills -- like communication, problem-solving, and teamwork -- that complement their academics. A good lesson plan starts by assesing students' prior knowledge, and after-school enrichment activities expose students to new ideas and experiences which build that knowledge.
Many schools have started building this enrichment time into their extended school days. For example, the KIPP model includes "More Time" as one of its five pillars. It is critical to recognize the after-school hours as time for youth development and enrichment, but it is also beneficial to help students draw connections between their "school world" and the "real world". By bridging this gap, we can help break the connection between poverty and achievement.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Friday, August 11, 2006
As director of the Coalition for Science After School, I am working to connect science-rich institutions (museums, universities, and others) with after-school educators. By sharing understanding based on research and experience, these groups can provide better opportunities for youth. Through this blog, I hope to share some of the empirical and anecdotal evidence that crosses my desk on a daily basis. I hope my visitors will find an occasional story, stastistic, or opportunity that will help them, and hopefully you will be inspired to share some interesting facts of your own.