UPDATE: As today’s program on Forum with Michael Krasny includes a story about engaging kids in science, we’re highlighting this previous post on how to help foster science education in the Bay Area.
As many of us are aware, science education in California is in trouble. However, many of us also know there are amazing people and organizations working to improve the situation. The annual California Science Education Conference put on by the California Science Teachers’ Association begins next week in San Jose. Science teachers from around the state will come together to learn from each other and experts in the field. Most will take personal time off from their teaching and pay conference registration and travel expenses out of their own pockets. Their dedication to improving science teaching and learning exemplifies what is going right and the sacrifices they have to make are a stark reminder of what is not working.
It is in honor of this annual gathering that QUEST takes time away from fact-based science stories to cover California’s science future in a different way. In our upcoming broadcast of Science Under the Microscope: Science Struggles in Schools, QUEST Television looks at the severity of the science education problem, what schools are doing to fill the gap, meets innovative teachers and discovers creative methods being employed to get kids caught up. And I, the QUEST Education Producer, take a bit of time away from creating media-related science resources for educators to write this blog post.
There are, of course, countless ways for concerned citizens to pitch in. As a former high school science teacher the five suggestions below are my personal recommendations – resources I wish I had known about when I was teaching and things I now give as someone who cares about students’ understanding of science.
There are numerous websites now being developed that allow individuals to make contributions towards the needs of specific teachers. Sites like Digital Wish and DonorsChoose provide a means for teachers to register for particular items for their classroom (similar to a baby or wedding registry). The public can search these sites for schools and teachers in their area or for certain subject area needs (i.e. search for “science”) to which they’d like to contribute.
Want to be environmentally responsible and help science teachers at the same time? Donate items to organizations like Resource Area for Teachers (RAFT) in San Jose, the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse in Oakland, or Scroungers’ Center for Reusable Art Parts (SCRAP) in San Francisco. Teachers are able to shop for a wide variety of items at discounted prices to use in their classrooms.
Do you have a background or career in science? Find out if your local school district or county office of education has a science specialist and connect with them to offer your time or expertise. They will be able to put you in touch with teachers and schools in need of guest lecturers, tutors, or speakers for career day presentations.
Attend school board meetings, write articles, contribute to blogs, talk to friends about the state of science education.
Now it is your turn. What other ideas do you have for assisting our schools with science education? Science educators, what additional needs do you see as easy places for the public to get involved and what has worked in your districts, schools, classrooms, etc.? Clearly we need major reforms in our entire education system, but often it is the smaller contributions of individuals that make the most immediate change.