Project Focuses on Science Education

Article excerpt

A new theory in teaching and learning science is based on lighting the spark of inspiration through sustained connections with "great explorers and great events" in core curriculum.

The theory is described in a white paper by Caleb Schutz, president of The JASON Project. Entitled Education through Exploration: A New Theory in Teaching and Learning Science, it is the result of the non-profit organization's 19 years of practice and research in middle school science education.

Schutz draws on two well-known, factual examples to illustrate the power of great explorers and great events to create the spark and increase student engagement. The first was the October 1957 sighting of Sputnik by Homer Hickam, a West Virginia schoolboy whose future as a coal miner was preordained until he saw the satellite. Transformed, Hickam struck up a correspondence with scientist Werner von Braun, learned the requisite science and math virtually on his own, and overcame great obstacles on his path to becoming a NASA engineer.

A similar spark was lighted nearly 30 years later, when Dr. Robert Ballard's discovery of RMS Titanic generated 16,000 letters from students asking to join his next expedition.

Understanding the power of the spark, Ballard wrote back to many of them and then founded JASON in 1989. …