Friday, September 08, 2006

Engagement, Capacity, and Continuity

Engagement, Capacity, and Continuity: A Trilogy for Student Success, a report by Dr. Eric J. Jolly (Science Museum of Minnesota), Dr. Patricia B. Campbell (Campbell-Kibler Associates, Inc.) and Lesley K. Perlman (Campbell-Kibler Associates, Inc.), provides a useful framework for anyone trying to connect youth development and academic achievement. It acknowledges that there is no magic bullet that moves a child into productive adulthood, something that most of us know but too many policy makers forget when dividing up scarce resources.

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 youth development workers worry that science will take the fun out of after-school, so we must work to make after-school science engaging - something that children are as likely to choose for themselves as basketball, dance, or drama.

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.

No comments: