America’s children are in serious jeopardy. Grim dangers lurk in the shadows and behind playground corners. However, this gruesome adversary is not war, famine, or plague, but ignorance and failure to thrive -- academically speaking, that is. Discoveries made in the last century in the sciences were astounding, even life-altering, yet there are many more left to be made. Unfortunately, America’s children may not be the ones making them unless we get them excited about, and involved in, the sciences.
This problem has been highlighted over the years from President Obama’s education speeches to a recent television advertising campaign by Chevron that emphasizes the contribution the company makes to science education programs around the country.
To succeed in today's high-tech global economy, workers must be knowledgeable in science and technology and must have strong skills in critical reasoning and problem solving. Many observers are concerned that America is failing to produce scientists and mathematicians who can create future innovations.
Despite being one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world, America has fallen far behind in science education. A recent report by National Academies, one of the organizations responsible for advising the United States on science and technology, found that the U.S. ranks an embarrassing number 27 out of 29 wealthy countries in the proportion of college students with either engineering or science degrees.
The problem, however, starts long before students reach college. If children aren’t excited about science, they are unlikely to pursue a physics degree, engineering degree or any other science degree. Programs aimed at getting children interested in science at an early age are vital to reaching the goal of producing future scientists.
It’s never too early to start getting children excited about science. Many well-respected science magazines and television channels have publications or online sites aimed at pre-school aged children. For example, Discovery Kids offers puzzles, games and activities for the pre-school age group that allow them to explore science and have fun doing it. The Weather Channel also offers an interactive website for pre-school and elementary aged children to explore and learn about the weather.
One of the biggest hurdles to getting kids interested in science has been a logistical problem. While there may be hundreds of scientists who are eager to interact with children and inspire them to pursue a career in the sciences, they frequently don’t know how to go about doing it. Thanks to Scientific American, that problem may be solved. The well-respected magazine launched their "1,000 Scientists in 1,000 Days Program" in 2011. The program matches up scientists who are willing to offer advice on curricula, answer questions, and even make visits to the classroom, with schools who are trying to get kids excited about science.
Another program aimed at helping educators offer thought-provoking science curricula for middle school and high school aged students is Project Lead the Way. Taught as part of regular classroom instruction, PLTW provide students the chance to do amazing things like build an actual robot. Extensive instruction is provided to classroom teachers by PLTW in order to ensure the teachers are prepared to inspire students to go on to post-secondary studies in Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics.