What Science Education in the U.S. Needs, Part IV

Science as creative outlet

Science as creative outlet

Today, we’re wrapping up our mini-series of posts on changes to the American science education system. The inspiration for these posts is a 2013 New York Times article in which science writer Claudia Dreifus interviewed 19 educators, experts, and students and asked them what one change they’d make to the nation’s science education system if they could. We thought many of the answers she received pointed toward the approach that Headwaters Science Institute has taken in designing innovative science programs for middle and high school students.

Here goes!

Salman Khan, founder, Khan Academy, which offers free online courses.

Despite the STEM subjects’ being about new ways of thinking and creating new things, many students don’t perceive them as creative. And that’s because, to a large degree, the type of filters we have for these subjects are actually filtering out our most creative people. If I had one wish in this area, it would be to see that creativity and invention became the central focus of STEM courses and that the traditional skills be viewed as what they are: tools to empower creativity.

This means more of the students’ evaluation would be based on a portfolio of what they’ve done, as opposed to a score on a standardized test. This means more of class time would be devoted to exploring and inventing and less to lecturing and quiz-taking.

Obviously we believe that creativity is an important outlet for students learning science. While one of the people interviewed for this story suggested that collaboration between science and art classes would help science education, we believe that Kahn’s ideas above are a better framework for infusing creativity into STEM, and science education more specifically. HSI’s Student Driven Research model gives students ultimate creativity to drive their own research in the direction they think is most interesting. Perhaps one of the most astounding findings we’ve made about teenagers is that they’re perfectly capable of doing high quality research if they know it’s their own creative ideas they’re exploring. That’s not only an exciting and encouraging finding, but it’s all the more reason we need to support this sort of innovative science education–so we can bring it to millions of students in the near future.

Deon Sanders, fifth grader, Lakeland Elementary/Middle School, Baltimore.

I need science and math education to be more about life.

Kids these days live in a world that’s way more influenced by science than we adults could ever have dreamed of when we were children. But one gap that still exists is the difference between the application of science and the understanding of science among the general public. Perhaps the best way to close this gap is to give kids first-hand experience doing the same kind of work scientists do as a regular part of their science education. While they will not have time to learn about how every topic in every branch of science is studied, they will take away an understanding of how real-world problem solving works and how crucial the scientific method is to understanding our world. We believe that doing real scientific research is not an advanced activity for only the most motivated high school and college students, but is actually a fundamental exercise that every student should be exposed to throughout his/her education. That’s how HSI believes science education becomes more about life.

 

So that’s the end of our mini-series on improving science education in the U.S. We hope you’ve enjoyed the dialogue. If you’d like to join the conversation, we’d love to hear from you. You can use the “Comments” section to tell us the one change you’d like to see made to science education in the U.S. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

Best,

Headwaters Science Institute

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