Why science education matters

Published 8:48 pm Monday, November 24, 2014

Science teachers and educators around the commonwealth gathered together at the historic Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center for a three-day professional development institute Nov. 20-22.

Sponsored by Virginia Association of Science Teachers, this yearly educational event helps science teachers get new ideas to enhance their teaching, while they experience cutting-edge technology and earn recertification points or extra college credits.

Educators network with fellow science teachers from all over the state and hear nationally known keynote speakers and presenters who are experts in their own fields. Participants also see exhibits from different exhibitors, corporate member-partners and sponsors, and organizations that support science education.

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The institute aims to expand and promote excellence in science education, as well as science literacy in Virginia.

This year’s theme was “Sparking Innovation: Enhancing Student Learning Experience for Everyone.”

Science education matters. That’s why this group of talented teachers and educators converged on Roanoke.

While my wife Freny, a chemistry teacher, was busy attending sessions, I had the opportunity to ask a number of participants why they believe science education matters.

John Richardson, a faculty member at Ferrum College and Virginia Tech, said: “The idea of informed citizens is the most important consideration. I focus on climate change to a great extent and the importance of a knowledge base is critically important to make political decisions based on science.

Stephanie Harry, a chemistry teacher at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, wrote: “Education is power. Science is fundamental in the advancement of our society. We must work to prepare our students so they can continue to contribute to the advancement of our society.”

Fifth-grade teacher Ravi Nair of Hanover County said, “As we prepare students for the future, certain process skills will be needed. These skills can only be developed by providing students with meaningful experiences that involve critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork.”

Marsha Brown, fifth grade teacher at Tanners Creek Elementary School in Norfolk, wrote: “ Science education matters, because science is everywhere. It helps students understand the natural world. Science encourages them to become life-long problem solvers and critical thinkers.”

Joseph Wieland, a Biology graduate student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, said science education matters, because it “extends your questioning (beyond) what you already know and what others say, based on facts and opinions. It teaches you how to question to get new ideas and information.”

“We have kids in different classes who haven’t the slightest idea about issues like Ebola virus, global warming, health care and space program, and they’re uninformed,” said George Dewey, a physics teacher from Fairfax. “They don’t know what and who to believe. That’s where science education comes in.”

One of the association’s standing committee chairs on policy on awards and grants, Dewey said that science educators try to stress logical thinking process as one of the keys in learning. He said critical thinking is a byproduct of science education.

A Science Instruction Specialist from Campbell County, Lanie Patrick, said, “Science education is the epitome of thinking, asking questions, and finding answers. It’s what we know about our world and how we understand it. Science (education) is learning.”

To all the teacher-participants in the VAST event, thank you for all that you do to spark and enhance our students’ learning.