Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Science All Around Us - More Apparent in Rural Environs?

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


lisa said...

I teach in an urban school district. Today I brought my kids outside to find an indiviual, population, community, ecosystem, abiotic and biotic factors in an real life environment. They did a good job but I was disappointed in the amount of wild life in the area. I think we saw a few birds, and a couple bugs. It's hard to teach about ecosystems when there's none to be found.

-- said...

Lisa, et al, sorry for the slow response - I just saw the post.

I think there is probably a lot more biodiversity than the kids might have found at first glance. I am a novice at such things, but I had a chance to go to Central Park with Columbia University's Dr. James Danoff-Burg, who helped us find an amazing variety of creatures. While they were mostly "bugs", these can be very cool with the right tools, especially beat sheets, an aspirator, and a small magnifying glass. I found a good list of tools here: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/Entomology/ythfacts/bugfun/collecti.htm. Your local university might even have someone who would lend the tools or go with you on your tour of the "wild".