What You Can Do About the Crisis in Science Education
What if your child’s elementary school isn’t up to snuff in its science instruction?
Judith Opert Sandler, director of the Center for Science Education at the Education
Development Center, a non-profit international health and education consultancy, advises
parents to ask these questions of their child’s teacher or school principal:
• What kind of science instruction is my child getting at school?
• How many minutes of science instruction is my child receiving during the week?
• Are teachers getting enough support for science teaching?
• What can I do at home to reinforce what the school is teaching?
• Is the science teaching based around a hands-on, inquiry-based approach, or does it only
involve memorizing facts from a book?
• Can I volunteer to help out with science projects in the classroom?
• How can I make the most of a visit to the local science museum?
Three Steps to Science Learning
Even if science instruction doesn’t improve at your child’s school, you still have some
1. Head online. Nowadays, amazing science is just a click away. Two favorite Web sites of Janis Koch, Ph.D., a professor of science education at New York’s Hofstra University, are those of the Exploratorium, San Francisco’s renowned hands-on museum of science, art and perception, and the New York Hall of Science, one of the foremost science museums in the country. Look for science sites for kids that engage them in problem-solving and facts that excite them.
2. Consider a summer camp focused on science. A simple online search will reveal thousands of options; the Science Adventures program is one such model, providing summer day camps and after-school programs to elementary students in 20 states around the country.
“We want to instill a love of learning, an engagement and excitement about science,” says Marcy Suntken, president of KLC School Partnerships, which runs the program.
“My two boys raved about the camp,” says mom Ruth Hollis. “It was the perfect blend of education and fun.”
3. Look for inexpensive science kits, or create easy science experiments yourself. Bookstores, Web sites and high-quality children’s toy stores will have books, ideas or actual kits for experiments such as creating a tornado inside of a soda bottle, building a miniature volcano or other kid-friendly projects.
• Exploratorium – www.exploratorium.edu – The Web site of the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco provides a wealth of online activities and online exhibits related to science. If you can’t get there in person, the Web site is an excellent alternative.
• New York Hall of Science – www.nyscience.org – The Web site for this wonderful museum allows you to investigate current exhibits online.
• Science Adventures – www.scienceadventures.com – Provides a full listing of science camps and after-school activities nationwide for children in grades 1-6.
• The Zula Patrol – www.zula.com – The Web site for this animated TV series on science and astronomy offers plenty of activities for parents and kids to have fun learning science together. It’s geared toward kids ages 4 to 8.
The Crisis in Science Education is a 4-part feature:
• Confronting the Crisis