Friday, April 18, 2014

Coming Down From the Mountain
The National Science Teachers Convention in Boston

Sometimes I feel like Moses coming down from the mountain top when I return from these National Science Teachers Conventions.  These conventions provide an exhilarating experience and, at times, a life changing experience.  What I see from this mountain top is sweeping changes in science education thinking and pedagogy, from a silo-based content-driven mentality to a cross-disciplinary methodology, which is the focus of the Next Generation Science Standards and the expected outcomes envisioned by its implementation. Test-centered mentalities are beginning to yield to an inevitable outcome, the dominance of project-based models of learning to meet 21st century learning goals.

The National Science Teachers Convention, this year in Boston, is the apex of science education thought in our country.  Look out world, because the innovation and shear ingenuity of American science educators will not be denied. I find it easy to imagine that the educational wealth of resources that I have witnessed in Boston would leave other nations pale in comparison.

Teachers, like myself, flock to these events to intellectually mine for ideas, resources and opportunities.  Having the opportunity to network with experts from across the countries helps ignite my own learning and it inspires me to push the boundaries of learning in my own classroom

Aquaponics, hydroponics, community service projects, computer simulation mapping and the Next Generation Science Standards are just the tip of an iceberg of resources and ideas that develop out of such a grand assembly of educators.  Education in the 21st century must provide our children with the skills and developed abilities to survive in an accelerating dynamic social, political and economic environment. Change is not only the norm, but it is the “acceleration of the change” taking place in our society that is inspiring the urgency for needed educational reform.

Education in the classroom demands innovation.  It is the teachers that bring to their students a sense of urgency in the learning process.  Teachers inspire students to reach for new learning outcomes, like critical thinking and problem solving that outstrips and lay aside traditional content-driven, test-centered curriculums.  The opportunities provided now in the classroom must include not only a degree of relevance tied to solving problems, but also to the betterment of society.

Meeting student needs is the mission of our schools and it can only be achieved by creating nurturing learning environments that intrinsically motivate our children to want to learn.  It is hard for me to understand how school will escape the threat of growing obsolescence without embracing new innovative and imaginative aspects into the learning process.  This is not a trepid task.  It should be considered an amazing challenge for all stakeholders in education.  

The world around us is rabid for science, technology and engineering that is fostering new ideas, new opportunities and new directions in education.  As Americans we cannot be just spectators to the change in science education that is unfolding world-wide.  Bold initiatives and innovative thinking must be encouraged and brought to the forefront as models of leadership.  The future is in the hand of our youth and as educators we must provide them the opportunities to learn, understand and to be inspired!

The essence of my experience at this national convention is the realization that there is wealth of opportunities for our teachers to explore, learn and implement.  Support for these types of change is being fueled by expanding networks of teachers, businesses and educational institutions.  In a world interconnected by social media it is no wonder that a revolution or renaissance in learning is taking hold and strengthened by progressive-minded teachers.  The silos of content-driven and test-driven pedagogy are crumbling away and revealing integrated webs of cross-disciplinary models of learning. Innovation and ingenuity now provide the foundation for the emergence of what is  considered excellence in learning for this century.