How much science education should be required?

By Barbara Joseph All across the country, everyone from President Obama, Governors, corporate leaders and higher education presidents, have focused substantial efforts to increase the number of students entering STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professions. Yet Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget for the State of California will require only one year of science to graduate from high school.

Can we even consider reducing the science requirements at the high school level if our country is pushing our future workforce into STEM professions? If the driving factor is financial, we need to be creative in how we can bring science into the classroom and across the curriculum. An engaged science teacher goes a long way in getting students to want to learn science and make the connections into core math and literacy curriculum. If labs are costly, teachers who are comfortable with inquiry-based teaching can provide students with hands-on experience just by stepping outside or even tapping into infinite sources through the internet. Beyond science, a focus on inquiry encourages our students to become more analytical; a lifelong skill needed in any profession.

Wheelock’s STEP (STEM Teacher Enhancement Project) online courses provide teachers with a solid foundation in math and science content and instructional methods. What better way to foster engagement and creativity in learning about science than through our teachers! If teachers have the confidence and know how to use resources creatively, their time in the science classroom will foster that same engagement and confidence in our students.

Reducing science requirements at the high school level due to budgetary constraints will only perpetuate the problem of not enough students pursuing STEM professions. Instead, offering creative and cost effective solutions that embed science across grades and curriculum are what is needed.

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Barbara Joseph joined Aspire in December 2010 as STEP Project Manager for a NASA-funded grant. Her role is to manage the development and rollout of high-quality online math and science in-service courses to elementary teachers.

Prior to joining Aspire, she spent over 20 years of her career in high technology, specifically software localization. She has held various positions from software engineer, director of technical services, vice president of operations and most recently, project/program manager. She has a strong interest in math and has tutored elementary math in grades 1-5 and high school algebra and geometry. As an advisor to TenMarks Education, an online supplemental math program, Joseph was involved in consulting on the design and content of the program and website.

She received her BA from Boston College majoring in Computer Science and French, and minoring in Math. She also received an Entrepreneurial Management Certificate from Babson College.

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