From Elearning! Magazine and Slate: More science needed

7 Jun

Ask a school-age child today what he or she wants to be when they grow up. Unfortunately, the answer is probably not a scientist or engineer.

There just aren’t enough young people sticking with the hard sciences, according to Leland Melvin, former astronaut and associate administrator for NASA’s Office of Education. A recent Elearning! magazine article goes on to report that among “American fourth-graders, only three out of 10 science students and four out of 10 math students demonstrate a high level of interest and aptitude. By high school, that number drops to only two out of 10.” The article continues:

Currently, there are over 1 million jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields going unfilled. The future will require even more of these high tech workers. […] It is critically important to develop young people who are trained in STEM, because that’s where the best, most interesting ideas come from. “Those kids could be the doctors who save your life,” said Melvin, “… or planting the American flag on Mars.”

A related issue is that there simply “are not enough qualified STEM teachers, and there are limited resources available to train them … Only 16 percent of high school students go to college in STEM fields, and only 12 percent graduate with STEM degrees.”

A recent Slate article echoes Melvin’s concerns. David Plotz reports that, “In 2010, only 4.9 percent of American jobs were in science and engineering, down from 5.3 percent in 2000—the first such decline since 1950.U.S. companies are building factories overseas because they can’t hire enough competent engineers at home.” Plotz goes on to outline some of the quandaries endemic to the issue:

How can we educate more and better scientists and engineers? How can we make science and math enticing to kids? How can we make sure that college students don’t flee labs like I did? How can we persuade kids with scientific inclinations to stay in the sciences? And how can we teach basic science literacy to non-scientists, so they can have a voice in public discussion about cutting-edge technologies and discoveries?

Slate has opened up the discussion to its forum of readers, stating:

We will tackle why science education is lagging and how we can, and must, improve it. Successful scientists will write about what turned them on to science. We’ll offer new methods for how to teach science and math. We’ll focus on how to keep girls interested in science. We’ll ask whether standardized tests inspire or demoralize potential scientists. We’ll look at how other countries teach science and figure out which of their ideas we should steal. […] We’ll be publicizing the most provocative and promising ideas at the end of the month.

With the grand opening of Peckham Hall, which houses the Integrated Center for Math and Science, in September, Nazareth College is also part of this ongoing nationwide discussion. As Nazareth College President Daan Braveman notes, “This building will help Nazareth expand the number of students interested in pursuing careers in math, science, technology, health care, and teaching. The project will also ensure that our students graduate successfully and enter the workforce or graduate school prepared to begin the next chapter of their lives.”

But it’s not only math and science majors who will benefit from the new and improved learning and research spaces on campus. As a comprehensive college, Nazareth offers its students a liberal arts and sciences curriculum. And as part of that curriculum, lab courses are required. Therefore, all undergraduate students at the College will use and benefit from this center. In the last few years especially, Nazareth has seen a significant increase in enrollment in health and human services programs, which require a number of science courses. Also, in the last five years, Nazareth College has pledged to help meet the national demand for more and better qualified math and science teachers at the K–12 levels. Education remains a cornerstone program at Nazareth, and the College is committed to graduating the best prepared math and science educators for Rochester, the region, and beyond.

The Integrated Center for Math and Science in Peckham Hall will offer more than just updated lab spaces and classrooms. The center will feature dedicated, flexible, and multi-purpose research spaces, a range of support services (including computer labs and preparation rooms), and a variety of student centers—from collaborative group meeting halls to individual tutoring rooms. The building will provide a balance of student, teaching, and research needs—all critical to an interdisciplinary education.

Nazareth College is directly addressing the regional, national, and international need for more scientists, mathematicians, educators in these fields, researchers, health care professionals, and more. From Nazareth graduates restoring patients’ health to faculty inspiring a love for science in area youth and students, the College is committed to discovering and supporting knowledge and skills that will benefit everyday lives.

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