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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Program targets science learning

    Every year, in elementary and middle schools across the country, classrooms are becoming more diverse. Teachers able to operate in such as environment are becoming necessary to ensure all students are able to understand and complete their classes.

    The UA’s Science Education Scholars Program has begun this year to educate teachers on how to help elementary and middle school students achieve more in their science classes.

    The program “”is in response to a need here in the U.S. to develop a new generation of science educators and researchers,”” said Christopher Harris, assistant professor of science education.

    He said a project

    There are lots of things that need to be addressed in science teaching.

    -Elsa Schaub,
    teaching education graduate student

    about how to “”address the needs of an increasingly diverse population”” first came up in conversation over a year ago.

    Using the research of students and graduates of the program, the middle school and elementary “”students will learn science as inquiry,”” expanding beyond traditional classroom methods, said Bruce Johnson, a teaching education professor.

    Through observation and experimental teaching in classrooms throughout Tucson, teachers and students in the program hope to improve the abilities of and interest in science for students from all kinds of backgrounds, Johnson said.

    “”It’s an intense program of research and scholarship, and we model it as an apprenticeship,”” he said.

    The program takes at least four years of full-time study, Harris said. Currently, there are only two students, and though Harris expects around 30 applications this year, the program won’t take more than a couple of new students next year.

    “”We’re a pretty selective program,”” he said, explaining that there is no other program quite like it anywhere else.

    Elsa Schaub, a teaching education graduate student, is in the program this year.

    “”There are lots of things that need to be addressed in science teaching,”” she said.

    Schaub was a middle school science teacher for the Tucson Unified School District for six years before joining the program. She wants to address the inequity in learning among students of different backgrounds.

    She said she heard about the program last year and applied to be able to learn how to better make science “”relevant and meaningful in students’ lives.””

    Minority students often have the most trouble with science and math, Schaub said, typically more because of the learning environment than students’ inabilities.

    She said the formal teaching methods used in most classrooms do not engage students enough to help them learn, and that when allowed to explore on their own, students can learn science more easily.

    Harris hopes that graduates of the program will be able to help students from non-mainstream backgrounds both learn and appreciate science by using their research to educate teachers.

    “”We’re interested in attracting students with diverse backgrounds for the program as well,”” he said.

    Students who are interested in science as children are more likely to grow up and have careers in science-related fields, which is of increasing importance in today’s increasingly technology-oriented job market, Harris said.

    Teachers with science education doctorates will better ensure a population with both an appreciation and understanding of science, Johnson said.

    “”Science education is a real hot topic that is getting a lot of attention,”” he said.

    With much recent talk about science education, including that involving evolution and genetics, Johnson said it is good to have a program like the UA’s, which he calls “”a special opportunity because we have good connections with the public schools.””

    The program is part of a “”big push for science for all Americans,”” he said.

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