Two weeks ago, I wrote about a trend in the U.S. shows that our math skills among students are outpacing their reading skills. Now, news from an eight-county area in and surrounding Philadelphia shows that more than 40% of the school districts give more than three hours of science to fourth graders compared with 60 to 80 minutes of science in the national average. One school which symbolized patterns in this research is from an all-girl’s private school. Over half of the graduates from this school plan to pursue science or engineering. The same patterns hold true for urban and disadvantaged schools in the same areas.
Early emphasis on science will likely improve critical and creative thinking skills, the ability to analyze, observe and draw inferences. If students master these skills in the fourth and fifth grades, they will have a “thinking” foundation which can allow them continued success as they progress through their middle and high school years whether the pursue science or other fields. For American students to go toe-to-toe with their counterparts in Asia and Europe we need more early success in science, math and reading to create learners with the 21century skills to succeed.
Our two books, CRITICAL AND CREATIVE THINKING and LEADERSHIP FOR TEENAGERS promote cross-disciplinary examples throughout which can help students to connect what they learn in science and their other classes to majors, careers, and fields of study.
It has taken prodding by industry, business, and government leaders – alarms going off, even – but science education is getting an upgrade in many classrooms across the region.
First graders are watching insect eggs hatch, feeding the larvae and learning words like metamorphosis.
High school students are signing up for course work in marine biology, pharmacology, engineering, and how the brain works. And officials in many schools are adding class time and squeezing dollars out of tight budgets to improve science instruction and laboratories.
The question, not yet answered, is whether the newfound respect for science will boost student achievement to match math and science powerhouses in Asia and Europe.
Many corporate, industry, and government observers view American students – the next generation of workers – as lacking in the math, science, and technical skills that are key to U.S. economic prowess.
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