Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Future of Science Education: Here's hoping that it's not too far into the future.

I had the opportunity to attend a talk at the U of A from Francis Amara. The timing couldn't be more perfect, the talk was the week before school started, at a time when ideas are burning holes in teachers heads.

He approached the current science situation from a sincere, but firm place. He was convinced that science dollars are spent unwisely. He suggests instead of spreading out the money and offering classes mediocre science tools, like outdated microscopes and cupboards full of baking soda and pipe cleaners, the money should be localized to one building. Where, a real kick butt lab could exist, and in it, the ability to work with the best technology and equipment. Where all students from any school could access the lab from 9am to 9pm. This isn't just a dream, but a reality for the Winnipeg school system, where Dr. Amara has created just that.

He wants to bring those resources here in Edmonton, he just needs the right person to head up the program. So the seed is sewn.

I couldn't agree more with his approach and his desire to present students with the most accurate science technology and education.

This week, I was offered a small opportunity from the U of A that would steer us in the right direction.

Stefanie Vogt from Let's Talk Science writes:

My name is Stefanie Vogt. I am a PhD student at the University of Alberta, and a local coordinator of the Let's Talk Science program. Our records show that you have previously participated in the Let's Talk Science Partnership Program. We are currently starting up for the 2010/11 school year, and we would like to take this opportunity to invite you to participate in our program once again.

If you would like to participate in Let's Talk Science in 2010/11, please respond to this e-mail with the following information:
1. Grade and number of students you are teaching this year
2. Area(s) of science you would like to explore (Astronomy, Biotechnology, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Health Science, Information Technology/Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, or Psychology)
3. Whether or not you would like to be paired with the same volunteer as in previous year(s)

If you no longer wish to participate in Let's Talk Science, we would appreciate a response so that we can update our records.

Thank you for your interest in our program!

Stefanie Vogt

And I replied,

Stefanie Vogt,

Thanks for touching base with me. I am teaching grades 7-12 science and math. We have a small population of 25 students. Our school is focussing on teaching through hands on activities. Activities where the students are engaged in real science experiments. Our biggest downfall is not having enough access to experts in science fields. We want the students exposed to real science labs, and real experiments. However, this means we need a program that allows the students to visit a lab at least once a week.

I could be making a big request, but I feel the University is our best access to real science equipment and experts, who can show students how to run relevant experiments. Posters, paper resources, and science competitions are good opportunities, but what we really need is time from scientists. If there are grad students that are willing to participate, I can offer them the opportunity to make a real difference in science education and a glowing letter of reference from our school.

I am not naive, I attended Dr. Francis Amara's talk at the U of A, where he talked about the obstacles in science education. One of those obstacles being the University's already busy schedule.

We would love to obtain any access possible. Astronomy, Biotechnology, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Engineering, Health Science, Information Technology/Computer Science, Mathematics, Physics, and Psychology are all areas that at least one student has shown genuine interest in. Our school's schedule is extremely flexible, and we are a short bus ride away.

I would be grateful if you could send any information, or contacts that could help me execute this plan. It sounds like "Let's Talk Science" could be a great place to start a real connection between learning and seeing.

Thanks for your time,
Jennifer Foster

Progressive Academy
(780) 455-8344

I know that only good things can come from this initiative. Students need the ability to practice science and investigation. This is big, really big, but well worth it.

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