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“What are the Challenges in Science Education—Now and in the Future?”


Cynthia Edwards
High school teacher and chair of the Science Department, Youth Opportunities Unlimited

The kids aren’t coming in with basic skills. And the quality of their questions doesn’t change. I ask my kids to write down 10 questions, and do you know most of them can’t come up with 10. Kids aren’t curious about science. They don’t see where it applies or why it matters.

We don’t 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 don’t care if my students get the answer right. I do care that they understand the process and how to get to that answer.


Megan Trevathan
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 education—helping to educate educators and to develop curriculums.

We’re doing this on a small scale here at TSRI.



Leonard Thomas
Madison High School biology and physiology teacher

There are several available curriculums. Our district creates its own curriculum—a lot of teachers do their own thing—but 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, we’ve decided every kid is going to be college prep, so we don’t offer life science or basic biology anymore. That bottom rung, those kids that need basic, fundamental biology—whether it is because they can’t read or it is because they don’t care or a variety of maturational factors—those kids are forced into an advanced biology class, which means that the class now has to run a little slower.


Steven Bark
Manager of the TSRI Open Access Mass Spectrometry Facility

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 people’s lives. How radically science is affecting their lives.

Everything from the medicine you take to the glasses that you’re 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 don’t know where the future breakthroughs will come. If people do not understand science, then they won’t be able to critically evaluate why it is important to continue research. They won’t 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.


Scott Wolkenberg
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 the textbooks.


Gary Siuzdak
TSRI adjunct associate professor of molecular biology

Integrating the Web into the science curriculum is an important issue. There’s so much information available that it’s 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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