Educators across the country agree schools need more students to excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Yet hooking students on these subjects remains a challenge, especially for generally low performing schools with few resources.
But this year, administrators in Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) tried to tackle the problem in a new way – by sending some of its teachers to summer school.
“I haven’t been in a lab in 43 years,” says Susan Wade, a BPS science teacher.
This summer, while Wade’s students were home, she was still in a classroom – sitting in a desk – learning new technology and teaching methods.
Wade is just one of 60 Buffalo teachers now sporting new skills, thanks to a $9.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The program, known as the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP), places teachers in contact with graduate students with the University at Buffalo and other science-based organizations.
After years of treading water professionally, Wade says the new training is better late than never.
“Our sixth grade is now being taught an hour a day of science. They used to get 20 minutes every other day,” says Wade.
This semester, the re-trained BPS teachers will take students out to local streams to collect water samples for testing in a lab, among other experiments.
“We tested Gatorade for some of the biological ions,” says Perka Kresic, a middle-school science teacher with BPS. “We’re basically targeting ion selective electrodes where the students will have a better understanding what ions are.”
These kind of hands-on assignment keeps teenage students from tuning out math and science at exactly the age when most do.
The idea: better science teachers will produce better science students.
The Innovation Trail is a collaboration between five upstate New York public media outlets. The initiative, funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), helps the public gain a better understanding of the connection between technological breakthroughs and the revitalization of the upstate New York economy.