Friday, April 27, 2007

Student-Centered Learning

Students learn better when they are directly involved in problem solving, scientific experiments, or following their own lines of inquiry. However, achieving this type of learning is difficult even for experienced science teachers. These comments won't come as new or innovative to those who have worked in science education for a while. Yet, they continue to be central to achieving high quality learning.

A new study on physics education finds that students engaged in interactive courses outperform their peers who received traditional, instructor-led lessons. ASCD Research Brief / Study

In my own experience visiting after-school programs where youth workers are trying to lead inquiry activities, there is a difficult balancing act between student-centered activity and science content. If you asked them to teach drama or basketball, these experienced and trained after-school leaders would presumably put the students at the center - letting them play and experience the activities. Yet, with science, the staff revert to their own experience with science, attempting to spew facts or take the children through programmed experiment steps.

Overcoming the preconceptions about science education as lecture-led starts with the staff. NSTA and others have been helping teachers with this for many years. Now we have to reach a new group of science education staff in after-school programs, camps, and other informal settings.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

New Reading on Out-of-School Time

There is an interesting new article called "Beyond the Classroom" about out-of-school time by Rhonda Lauer of Foundations Inc. In addition, the National Institute on Out-of-School Time has published its latest fact sheet. The article provides good thinking about the state of our education system and the role of OST institutions (especially for urban youth). The fact sheet offers a summary of the information that you may find yourself thinking about after reading the article.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Informal Science Social Bookmarking Site

For those who work in the informal science or museum worlds, you may want to check out, a new social bookmarking site for science centers and museums.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

More enrichment, Less basic skills, part 2

Earlier this month, a report in Science stated that elementary schools spend too much time on the basic skills and not enough on enrichment. Now, a report from ACT finds that state standards are not matching up with college expectations. In the area of science, high school teachers tend to emphasize content knowledge over scientific process skills, while college faculty would prefer students with the latter. In general, colleges prefer that students have in-depth understandings of certain knowledge and skills. State standards tend to be wide rather than deep, covering the basics of many categories, but little with any depth. Links: ACT Report / USA Today coverage

Monday, April 16, 2007

Worldwide Science Day

Apparently, April 18th is the World Wide Day in Science. If you are involved in science, you are encouraged to submit essays, due May 18, about what you did on April 18. If you work with students, they may be interested to read the essays from this and previous years.

Speaking of science days, Astronomy Day is April 21. Take your kids outside to look at the sky (if this Nor'easter ever clears up!) For more guidance, visit the NASA site I referenced last week.

Now that you have viewed the Cosmos, take some time for the world around you. Earth Day is April 22. If you have not been watching the new Discovery Channel series on Planet Earth, you should check it out. Remarkable videos of nature - many never seen before moments.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monthly Star-Gazing Video

The NASA Jet Propulsion Lab has released a new video feature on its website describing the most interesting views of the night sky for the month. Each month will feature a new video, and the views are accessible even for people who lack telescopes or live in urban areas. This month's video talks about Saturn, which is prominent in the sky this April.

The video is called "What's Up" and can be found on the JPL homepage, the Solar System Exploration page, or follow this link for April's video. There are also great resources for educators - including after-school - on the Solar System education page, including a page on amateur astronomy.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Too much basic skills, not enough enrichment

A new study published in Science this week finds that elementary classrooms are too focused on basic skills and lack the enriching, student-centered environment that they need. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, and researchers spent thousands of hours in 1st, 3rd, and 5th grade classrooms.

Links: USA Today | Science Magazine Link (subscription required)