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Jennifer Anastasoff

Jennifer Anastasoff

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Our Sputnik Moment Needs Scientists

Posted: 03/14/11 12:57 PM ET

According to the New York Times, participation in science fairs has declined over the past decade.

This may be due in part to increasing demands on teachers' time, but it's also well worth exploring the link between students' declining interest in science and the lack of science teachers who bring strong content and pedagogy to the classroom -- especially in low income schools.

President Obama recently spoke to our country's "Sputnik moment" as a way to illustrate how important science is to our lives and our future. Science teachers need to do the same -- make a clear and compelling case for how science enhances our lives in the real world to spark their students' curiosity in pursuing science as a career.

No doubt, in a time of decreasing resources and increasing demands, it can be challenging for science teachers to bring science to life in the classroom. As the Times reported:

"Some time-strapped teachers seek out scientists in industry and at universities to work with science fair students, but such connections are difficult to make. Even in the heart of Silicon Valley, it took two months of concerted effort before Craig Young, a physics teacher at Wilcox High School in Santa Clara, Calif., found a professional mentor to advise two students who wanted to use bacteria to generate electricity. He posted on the National Lab Network, a website devoted to such collaborations, but his requests went unanswered."

To help, EnCorps Teachers Program is supporting science teachers in their efforts to bring science to life in the classroom in innovative new ways.

We're tapping talented career scientists, chemists, engineers and other professional, training them for new careers teaching science in America's under-resourced schools and helping them access and foster best practices in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education so they can teach science using innovative new methods pioneered in classrooms around the country.

On April 1, EnCorps Teachers Program is hosting STEMposium at the California Academy of Sciences, where teachers, students and education innovators will share their approaches to STEM education that could change the way teach and learn these critical subjects in the US and around the world. Sharing the most innovative and compelling concepts in STEM education and providing a platform to learn and discuss how we can inspire students through STEM education can go a long way towards invigorating the science fairs of the future.