Do you remember your high school science classes? If you can think back that far (!) are your memories rich with exciting experiments and cutting edge discussions – or – do those memories conjure unpleasant thoughts about the periodic table, disgusting frog dissections and dreary memorization of the Kreb’s cycle? Well, we at the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences want our Nation’s youth to recall their exposure to science with passion and enthusiasm! We want them to remember the wonder of exploring the unknown, of pushing at the boundary of their (and their teacher’s) knowledge. Seems like quite a challenge, eh? And it is – but as they say “no pain, no gain”.
I am the President of the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences – my name is Peg Riley– and I want to share with you my experiences as we explore how to change the way kids view science in their classroom and in their lives. It is a daunting task we have set for ourselves, but if we take it one step at a time, there is hope that we can actually change how middle and high school students view science. We have named this new initiative Project ENGAGE! – and the goal is to do precisely that – engage the students, the teachers, professional scientists, college students and the community in changing the face of science for our Nation’s youth.
ENGAGE is an idea that emerged fully formed from the brow of Zeus – wouldn’t that be something. No, it was the result of a convergence of people – all thinking similar thoughts – but not really sure how to harness those ideas into action. So, let me introduce the players in this drama. There is the Massachusetts Academy of Sciences (http://massacademysciences.org/) – which is a non-profit whose mission is to increase the level of science literacy in the Commonwealth. There is the Massachusetts State Science and Engineering Fair (http://www.massscifair.com/) – which is another non-profit with the goal of getting middle and high school students “doing” science. There is Intel (http://www.intel.com/) – most definitely a for-profit company with a passion for giving back to their community and an even greater passion for getting kids to see science as part of their everyday lives – and a clear path to success in their futures. Bear with me – just a few more to go! There is the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (http://www.mass.edu/) – with a mission of increasing the number (and diversity) of students who graduate from college with majors in the sciences. We have saved the most important for last – there is the Everett Public School System (http://www.everett.k12.wa.us/everett) – who has agreed to be our “guinea pigs” in this exciting experiment in science education reform.
Intel gathered representatives from each of these organizations and asked them to spend a week figuring out how to make a difference in science education in Everett. If I haven’t lost you yet – in my next blog I will tell you a bit about what happened at this convergence of the minds which resulted in ENGAGE Everett! – a program already underway in the Everett Public School System. But for now – the short version is that Engage Everett! is a science initiative designed to engage students in research – to learn to think about their world from the perspective of a scientist – to ask questions, design experiments, and to tell others about what they found.
Over the next 9 months, I will be telling the story about ENGAGE Everett – as it evolves – with all it’s excitement, frustration, confusion and delight! My hope is that this blog will serve to inspire and inform others who want to make a difference in how kids view science, but feel overwhelmed and defeated before they even begin. I will tell you step-by-step what we are doing, right now, and how it is changing the lives of children and young adults right before our eyes! Stay tuned, as future posts will include insight from other individuals working with Engage Everett! Until next time – the key is to ENGAGE the kids in research…..