Historic Summit Aims to Improve Science Education
In early April 2008, an eminent group of nationally recognized leaders in education, business, philanthropy, science, media, and government gathered for a dynamic summit convened by the American Museum of Natural History intended to expand and accelerate action to remedy America's science education crisis. The 37 speakers at Science Generation: A National Imperative represented a wide variety of sectors, from the President of the Federal Reserve of New York to a middle-school science teacher from New York City. They addressed a number of pressing issues: national science education goals and standards, improving science teaching, creating a re-energized family base that is motivated to embrace science, and others.
Ellen V. Futter, President of the American Museum of Natural History, set the stage with her opening remarks by saying, "We are in real danger in this country of getting used to the public not understanding science, our students continuing to have poor achievement in science, and our competitiveness in a global society continuing to erode. Yet, in this vital area, we simply do not have the luxury of 'getting used to it.' The consequences for our children, our society, our future competitiveness and position in the world-indeed, for our planet-are unimaginably serious."
More than 300 attendees from 28 states, representing science centers, education policy institutes, school districts, and government agencies, as well as parents and students, agreed that the United States must move forward on a number offrants to improve science education. Consensus was reached on several key needs:
* the need for national, or "common," standards to achieve excellence and equity
* the need for cross-sector, cooperative action
* the need to identify promising, effective practices that can be brought to scale
* the need for science-rich institutions (such as museums, botanical gardens, zoos, and science centers) to work more closely with formal K-I2 education
* the urgent need for leadership and advocacy, especially regarding fully funding and implementing the America COMPETES (Creating Opportunities to Meaningfully Promote Excellence in Technology, Education, and Science) Act
* the need to engage parents and students in embracing the imperative of educating a "science generation"
A number of promising programs across the country demonstrated success in improving science education, including the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative, Ohio's STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Learning Network, and the Boston Museum of Science's "Engineering Is Elementary" curriculum. …