Academic journal article Science Educator

Examination of a Successful and Active Science Club: A Case Study

Academic journal article Science Educator

Examination of a Successful and Active Science Club: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Student interest in science tends to decline as the students advance through school (Ipsos Reid, 2010). Once the students reach high school, many do not see science as relevant for their future careers, overlooking the fact that science courses are required to enroll in seemingly non-science career paths such as culinary arts, technical theatre, or fitness (Hurd, 2013). Students also need science literacy to participate wisely and function as a contributing member within society (Martin, Sexton, & Franklin, 2009). At the same time, determined from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) statistics, 15 year-olds in the United States rank 16 out of 26 countries in science literacy (National Science Board, 2010). Gottfried and Williams (2013) recognized that government, industry, and parents are pressuring school systems to respond to the perceived gap of decreased student scientific literacy and stagnant numbers of students pursuing science related career paths. To close the gap, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provide guidance for the formal classroom setting, but classroom activities alone may not be sufficient. To bridge the divide, Gottfried and Williams (2013) identified an improvement of student achievement in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) areas when students participated in informal learning activities, particularly when belonging to STEM related extracurricular clubs.

This study examined one very active, 122-member rural high school Science Club program that thrives in spite of increasingly busy student schedules, decreasing school budgets, and a demanding standardized curriculum. This study was not about how to set up or run a Science Club, but instead the objective was to explore what the two teacher-advisors did to make this Science Club vital to the students. Why did the students connect to the program?

Definition of Science Club

Science Clubs are organizations or programs intended to provide students opportunities to directly explore and participate in science-related activities. The clubs are usually supported and run by a school, educational facility, or parent group; in the case of this study, the Science Club was a sanctioned organization in a high school. Each club is different, defined by its purpose and advisor's philosophy and goals. Looking specifically at school-based Science Club programs, the meetings may take place during school, after school, or during the weekends (Primary Science Teaching Trust, 2014). Activities are usually student oriented to generate and nurture interest in science, to gain science related experiences that are not part of the regular school curriculum, and to simply inspire students to have fun exploring and experiencing new things. Some clubs are general, and some clubs may focus on a specific area of science such as astronomy, technology, or nature (Science Clubs of South Africa, 2014). School based Science Clubs are typically open to the full student body, although some clubs may target subset populations, such as female students (Chandler & Parsons, 1995; Watermeyer, 2012). In some instances, in spite of Science Club being open to the full population, only segments of the student population join. For example, Carter (2012) observed that his Science Club membership consisted primarily of "boisterous boys" who did not necessarily do well academically but enjoyed participating in the activities.

There is minimal recent research illustrating the state of Science Clubs in modern high schools. Anecdotal evidence and personal observations suggest that, in general, Science Clubs are experiencing decreasing memberships or dissolution. In contrast, the benefits of an afterschool Science Club program are well documented from past and present researchers (Dunbar & Schafer, 1930; Gottfried & Williams, 2013; Hauenstein & Makki, 2012; LeDee, Mosser, Gamble, Childs, & Oberhauser, 2007, Reusser, 1934; Twillman, 2006; Webb, 1931). …

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