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What are the Challenges in Science EducationNow
and in the Future?
High school teacher and chair of the Science
Department, Youth Opportunities Unlimited
The kids arent coming in with basic skills.
And the quality of their questions doesnt change.
I ask my kids to write down 10 questions, and do you
know most of them cant come up with 10. Kids arent
curious about science. They dont see where it
applies or why it matters.
We dont walk around and wonder anymore. My favorite
word is "wonderful"to be filled with wonder. I
take my students outside when I can and walk around
and look at things. "Why is that bird doing that? Why
is this grass growing here and that growing there?"
I dont care if my students get the answer right.
I do care that they understand the process and how to
get to that answer.
TSRI graduate student
Science educators need to be research educators, too.
Teachers need the resources and materials to teach what
is really relevant today and do it well. And researchers
need to play a role in shaping science educationhelping
to educate educators and to develop curriculums.
Were doing this on a small scale here at TSRI.
Madison High School biology and physiology teacher
There are several available curriculums. Our district
creates its own curriculuma lot of teachers do
their own thingbut you have the fundamental question
of what courses you are going to offer. Biology/AP biology,
chemistry/AP chemistry, anatomy/physiologyÉ our district
may give up on anatomy/physiology next year.
There are four levels of student: a life sciences,
basic biology, an advanced biology, and an AP biology.
Now, weve decided every kid is going to be college
prep, so we dont offer life science or basic biology
anymore. That bottom rung, those kids that need basic,
fundamental biologywhether it is because they
cant read or it is because they dont care
or a variety of maturational factorsthose kids
are forced into an advanced biology class, which means
that the class now has to run a little slower.
Manager of the TSRI Open Access Mass Spectrometry
The most critical problem we are going to face with
science education will be getting a reasonable level
of understanding of basic research to the general population:
what it is, where it is going, and how it is impacting
peoples lives. How radically science is affecting
Everything from the medicine you take to the glasses
that youre wearing to the way you understand the
universe depend on the basic research that was done
ten, twenty, fifty years ago. How we perceive the future
will depend entirely on how people understand science
that is done today.
We dont know where the future breakthroughs will
come. If people do not understand science, then they
wont be able to critically evaluate why it is
important to continue research. They wont support
basic research, and then the necessary tools may not
be there when we need them. Then we as scientists and
as people may start failing.
TSRI graduate student
The most important challenge is to connect new discoveries
that are being made with what people are taught. It
can take decades for these things to filter down into
TSRI adjunct associate professor of molecular
Integrating the Web into the science curriculum is
an important issue. Theres so much information
available that its hard to decide what to use.
Teachers and professors have to make their curriculums
more challenging. In the past, they would give lectures
and those, with the textbook, would be the only sources
of information that the students would have. Now students
can go much further with just a couple of clicks.
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