The need to improve STEM learning

The following comes from a National Research Council committee on STEM learning and competitiveness:

The primary drive of the future economy and concomitant creation of jobs will be innovation, largely derived from advances in science and engineering….4 percent of the nation’s workforce is composed of scientists and engineers; this group disproportionately creates jobs for the other 96 percent. 

Another publication by NRC, Successful K-12 STEM Education: Identifying Effective Approaches in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics states the goals for U.S. STEM Education:

  • Goal 1: Expand the number of students who ultimately pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields and broaden the participation of women and minorities in those fields
  • Goal 2: Expand the STEM-capable workforce and broaden the participation of women and minorities in that workforce
  • Goal 3: Increase STEM literacy for all students, including those who do not pursue STEM-related careers or additional study in the STEM disciplines.

Four Reasons to Teach Science Well

I’ve been reading up on K-12 Science teaching recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences. The following is from a 2007 document, Ready, Set, Science!: Putting Research to Work in K-8 Science Classrooms (National Academies Press).

Four Reasons to Teach Science Well

  1. Science is an enterprise that can be harnessed to improve quality of life on a global scale.

  2. Science may provide a foundation for the development of language, logic, and problem-solving skills in the classroom

  3. A democracy demands that its citizens make personal, community-based, and national decisions that involve scientific information.

  4. For some students, science will become a lifelong vocation or avocation.

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p>Another good reference from this publication:

Four Strands of Science Learning

Strand 1: Understanding Scientific Explanations

Strand 2: Generating Scientific Evidence

Strand 3: Reflecting on Scientific Knowledge

Strand 4: Participating Productively in Science

Types of Support Teachers Need to Teach Science Well:

  • High-quality curriculum or supplementary materials
  • Means by which to have their questions answered (texts, colleagues, outside experts)
  • Time and support to work through science tasks as learners
  • Opportunity to explore a variety of materials and experience problems that students might have
  • Time to think about and assess the knowledge their students bring to class

Online resources for STEM Education

I have spent countless hours online over the past few months looking for current resources available for educators or curious members of the public in bioinformatics and genomics. The offerings across the web are not overwhelming. One important need, I think, is a resource allowing teachers to show their class ways scientists use online biology resources everyday in their research.

First, here are the most important sites for discovery.

The Universal Protein Resource

http://www.uniprot.org/

NCBI’s BLAST service

http://blast.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

The Protein DataBank

http://www.rcsb.org/pdb/home/home.do

Unfortunately, these sites are virtually not usable by K-12 educators who don’t have a scientific background. My search began by looking at guidelines for teaching STEM in American schools and what resources are in place to help educators get children involved in the scientific process.

One great tool is the Gene Gateway which has activities and introduces web-based resources to research genes, proteins, and genetic disorders in humans. It is based on the DOE work in the Human Genome Project. DISCLAIMER: This resource was created by my predecessor and I am not affiliated with its work. However, my goal is to expand the Gateway. My background in microbiology and plant biology gives me a wealth of resources that I have used and want others to know and understand, including the websites listed above.