Johnston: Science for All News, sports, jobs

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Adam Johnston

I can clearly remember the beginning of my career in October 1957. It is true that I would not have been born for another 15 years, but the launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik also marked the beginning of waves of reforms in science and mathematics education. continue to evolve for decades. Even today, the remnants of this era are part of our educational fabric. Events such as science fairs became necessary during the era of space competitions, as we encouraged children’s interest in becoming engineers and astronauts. We started to imagine the STEM Pipeline, a path to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Although these great national efforts have led to a successful space program, national laboratories and technological innovation, I am not sure that we have actually done so much to improve education in a meaningful way. We sought to streamline learning through inventions as an overhead projector. The writers dreamed of a day in the near future when computers and robots would effectively deliver information to our children directly to their homes – something we were almost universally disappointed with during the pandemic.

Perhaps the biggest hole in our space racing education was his goals: he aimed to create researchers and engineers in a kind of race to bring out a few that fit a certain pattern of our preconceived notion of who can become a good scientist. These educational reforms were not for everyone; they have been for NASA since the 1960s.

Around 1989, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) initiated an ambitious project, Science for All Americans, part of Project 2061, a comprehensive effort that could be made during Halley’s Comet’s re-orbit in the same year. Its premise is almost exactly what the title suggests, a greeting for all citizens to understand science. Some of them could become scientists, but more importantly, we recognize that scientific literacy is part of what makes democracy and citizenship possible.

For the last two weeks, I have been working closely with summer course teachers, working with them to better understand what we mean by understanding science and how we get there. On the other hand, all these teachers from preparatory courses from kindergarten to college share a mission to ensure that all their students learn. One of their biggest commitments is that studying science (and other subjects) should be a personally connected experience. That is, children learn science through direct and meaningful connections, the things under their feet, and the problems their communities face. We know this from research, but also from our own experience.

The problem is that we are still stereotyping science through the lens of the 1960s. Imagine scientists in lab coats and looking intently in a microscope or spreadsheet with obscure data, or maybe someone is calculating the trajectory of a rocket they just designed with some new composite material. Of course, there is a place and even a need for it, but some of the best and most innovative scientists I have worked with fit into a completely different framework.

These scientists, those I sincerely believe will guide us in all ways in the years to come, put their hands in buckets full of slime, figuring out how combinations of kitchen ingredients make elastic screeds that can roll into balls and more. late to stretch into wide sheets. These scientists pull the strings of a gyroscope and then begin to imagine all the different ways in which a rotating object can balance. They lower their bellies to the grass and pull out a hand-held lens to peer into the jungle of the earth, seeing the details of the dirt, grass, and creeping creatures magnified in front of them.

These and other scenes are the ones I’ve seen over the years at Science in the Parks, which is currently taking place in Ogden. (See for details and schedule.) But they are also the kinds of experiences we can all have in our kitchens, backyards, and sidewalks. To play and to wonder are the attributes I admire most in the scientists I work with, astrophysicists and scientists in materials below me, those in my classroom and the diverse team of children who play in parks.

Adam Johnston is a professor of physics and director of the Center for Teaching Science and Mathematics at Weber State University, where he helps prepare future teachers and provides support for classroom teachers in Utah.


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