The Status of Education in Rural America, published by the US Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics, provides some interesting findings about academic performance in rural areas. Rural students outperform their urban counterparts in math and reading at almost every level, and the difference in science was particularly noteworthy. Rural fourth graders scored higher than all other subgroups, including suburban. Rural 8th and 12th graders do much better than those in urban areas.
It seems likely that rural students have more practical experience with science. Some may work on family farms, while others may just have more opportunities to see the woods or the stars.
Urban schools are working hard to connect kids to real-world science and nature. There are programs like the Growing Connection, which uses the EarthBox to allow students to grow crops in all settings, and Urban Bird Studies, which includes students in a real "citizen science" research project on bird life in the city.
There is obviously just as much "science" around the city as there is in the country. We just have to be deliberate about helping kids connect to the environment around them.
Link to report | Link to article about the report