The mystery of teaching science…solved! (Christian Science Monitor article)

December 1, 2005

By hammersmith

[Source: Stacy A. Teicher, Staff writer, Christian Science Monitor] — “This class is mad!” That’s eighth-grader Michelle Morris’s high praise for her science teacher. As she and her classmates hover over tables creating models of our solar system using plastic buttons, glue, and paper – a quick exercise to think about the size and distance of the planets – Darren Wells watches his brood make predictable mistakes. But he’s relaxed, trusting that the follow-up lessons will stick later because the students are having fun trying to figure things out for themselves now.

“This is a class you can’t fall asleep in,” Michelle insists. Anthony Rivers, a fellow student at the Timilty Middle School in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, agrees: “It makes us use our brains…He even teaches us math,” he says with a touch of awe.

Creating such buzz in middle school classrooms is an urgent challenge, many observers say. Without more home-grown scientists, they warn, the United States is in danger of losing its edge in the global competition for innovation. Increasingly, efforts are targeting a younger, more diverse pool of students – aiming to both inspire them and prepare them for the demanding coursework that can lead to a science career.

Just as the US produces top basketball players because such a big pool of children play the game, “everyone needs a positive experience with math and science so you have the richest field of kids who are interested in it,” says Dennis Bartels, president of TERC, a nonprofit in Cambridge, Mass., which has spent 40 years working to improve the teaching of these subjects.

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