Monday, July 26, 2010

America COMPETES Act under debate in Senate Committees

A major piece of science education legislation is winding its way through the halls of Congress. The America COMPETES Reauthorization Act funds various National Science Foundation (NSF) programs for the next three years.

The House version of the bill (H.R. 5116) sponsored by Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN) passed after three separate votes in May. Now, the bill is under review and modification in the Senate. The Senate version (S.3605) sponsored by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) differs slightly in the scope of departments funded and, in an effort to win bipartisan support in a highly partisan Congress, limits the funding to just three years and contains few new initiatives. In fact, the only new initiative was proposed by the ranking Republican in the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) wants to designate $10 million to help universities train science and engineering majors to be K-12 teachers, a model that has been successfully employed in her home state by the UTeach program at the University of Texas, Austin.

In the Senate, the bill must win support in three separate committees: Commerce, Science, and Transportation (headed by Sen. Rockefeller); Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (led by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA); and Energy and Natural Resources (chaired by Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM).

Last week, the bill was approved by a key science panel yesterday in Sen. Rockefeller's committee, bringing it one step closer to committee approval and finally to the Senate floor for debate and voting. While changes to the bill could happen at any time during the debate process, you can still voice your support for the proposal by contacting the Senators on each committee. To see if your Senator is a member of any of the above committees, click on the links below:

You can read the text of the House of Representatives version of the bill (H.R. 5116) by visiting the bill summary and status page.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Share your ideas for new science education standards with the Board on Science Education

The Board of Science Education (BOSE), part of the National Academies, has just completed a conceptual framework draft for new science education standards for K-12 students across the country. This framework will provide the basis for a project to be conducted by Achieve, an independent, bipartisan, and non-profit organization dedicated to raising school standards, improve school assessments, and increase accountability. According to the project's website, Achieve hopes to develop new K-12 educational science standards as well as influence the direction of science education across the nation. The project was conducted with the help of Achieve, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Science Teachers Association.

The first draft of the conceptual framework is available online, and BOSE is offering the general public the chance to provide feedback with the aim of creating a final draft by winter of this year. You can read the full draft and provide your feedback by going here and clicking on the link at the top of the page.

Education standards often guide the development of new out-of-school programs, so your contribution to the report could help shape the way that afterschool science is taught in the future!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Careers in STEM

NASA recently launched Learning Technologies, a program designed to increase interest in space science through gaming. Learning Technologies just released their first game—Moonbase Alpha, in which a team of players works together to save a Lunar base that has been damaged by a meteor strike.

It may seem strange for a government organization to devote time to creating computer games for children. But Moonbase Alpha is more than just entertainment—it’s a part of a strategy by NASA to increase support for STEM education across the US.

Profiled on the website Ars Technica, the project manager for Learning Technologies, Daniel Laughlin, said that the project was developed as a direct response to the decline in STEM education in the US. Laughlin pointed out that “there are not enough students studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to fill our national needs in those areas” and that “NASA literally cannot function without STEM graduates.” (Read the full article here .)

This got us thinking about what kinds of other opportunities there are for students to engage in STEM education and learn the practical skills necessary to be competitive in the workforce today. A quick search of the Directory brought up several programs designed to prepare students for careers in research, advocacy, and education in a variety of STEM fields. Below are some standouts:

  • Discover the Possibilities at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). This weeklong program exposes potential engineering students to all of the different opportunities in the field, giving them the tools to pursue their ideal engineering career.

  • Student Science Training Program (SSTP) at the Center for Precollegiate Education and Training. This prestigious research seminar teaches students the practical skills needed to conduct science research and to attain a career in science.

  • Pasadena Technology Camp at the CA Space Education and Workforce Institute. This weekend program provides computer literacy training to disadvantaged student populations, teaching them an essential skill needed in the workforce today.

  • Leadership Intern Field Training (LIFT) at Sustainable South Bronx. This internship gives high school students hands-on organizing experience in the growing field of environmental justice and gain advocacy skills that are applicable to many STEM fields

Do you know of a program that provides practical STEM career skills to high school students or young adults? Join the Coalition and add your opportunity to the Directory.