I started my collegiate life with very little direction but a vague notion that my future was in science. So I pursued a degree in chemistry. For two years I toiled away in the labs and classrooms trying to put it all together. Organic chemistry, and the unbending drive of the collection of pre-med majors who populate that class at USD, ended any idea of a career in chemistry.
I realize that all sounds a lot like a justification for not wanting work that hard. There’s some truth in that.
The fact is, that I blessed to go to a private high school with an extraordinary teacher of chemistry and science, a nun with a couple PhD’s. So when I got to college, the first few semesters just weren’t that hard. I’d had the basics beat into for three straight years.
Which leads us to the topic of today’s 100 Eyes - science education.
Argus Leader reporter Josh Verges wrote a story last week that explored new standards for science education and the political controversy that is surrounding them. You can read that story here.
The big question is whether our public school students from K-12 are getting the kind of instruction they need in science to be able to not just get jobs in a new economy, but compete in a worldwide marketplace of innovation and ideas. I’m not sure that’s happening.
It’s also hard to understand. Who wouldn’t want to learn more about the amazing world we live in and how it works? Science education is about wonder and awe. The natural world is an inspiring and vexing collection of principles that working together create life. How is that possible? How does that work? Why does that do that?
Too often we turn away from the things we don’t understand, or try to explain with simplistic spiritual dogma.
To help us all understand the power and wonder of science, I’ve turned to an actual science person.
Elizabeth McMillan is the curriculum education coordinator for the Sanford PROMISE program at Sanford Research and the University of South Dakota.
Liz is the Curriculum Education Coordinator at Sanford Research. She comes to The Sanford PROMISE from several years teaching middle school science in Flandreau, SD. Liz is from Denver, Colorado where she earned degrees in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Denver and a degree in Science Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Colorado at Denver. She enjoys working with teachers and students in our region and is your point of contact whenever you’d like to use the community lab space.
So she knows a few things about teaching science.
I’ll confess to not knowing too much about the PROMISE program. Here’s a blurb from the Sanford site.
The Sanford Program for the Midwest Initiative in Science Exploration (PROMISE) connects the communities in our region with new frontiers in science and research. Our goal is to increase community understanding of science, raise awareness of the benefits of research, and emphasize the role of both in our society.