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Teacher Advocacy in Science Education: Strategies & Examples

Instructor: Susan Graziano

Susan has taught high school English and has worked as a school administrator. She has a doctorate in Educational Leadership.

With STEM and STEAM programs gaining popularity across the country, there has never been a better time to highlight the importance of science education. In this lesson, you will learn some strategies to highlight the importance of science programs in today's classrooms.

Total Eclipse of the Nation

Recently, the nation grabbed its eclipse glasses (or makeshift cereal box glasses) and headed outdoors to view the first solar eclipse in 38 years. An estimated 88 percent of American adults viewed the eclipse (either outdoors or electronically). This is twice the number who tuned in to see the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl LI. These statistics reflect our collective love for science. Unfortunately, the sciences can sometimes take a back seat to other school programs, namely literacy and mathematics. However, with creativity and active advocacy, teachers can begin to demonstrate the importance of science education in the classroom.

Solar Eclipse August 21, 2017
Solar Eclipse

Captivating Your Students

Engaging students is often half the battle. However, there is a wealth of interesting science trivia just waiting to be revealed (i.e. the average human swallows 430 bugs in his lifetime.). Your students will eat this up...for a moment. Engaging your students requires more than a regurgitation of facts that will impress an acquaintence.

The trick to student engagement is to effectively communicate the importance of your content. Students want to draw connections to their own lives. They want to know how knowledge of science will benefit them in the near and distant future. How many times did you ask your Algebra teacher the following question: ''When am I ever going to use this?'' The truth is that science is everywhere. We use our knowledge of science every day, whether in conserving water while brushing our teeth or using the weather report to pick out our clothes. These connections may seem obvious, but we need to explicitly communicate them to our students.

Additionally, students need to actively interact with the content. Gone are the days of the science teacher lecturing at the front of the classroom while students copy the definitions of deoxyribonucleic acid and nucleotides. Students should be engaging in problem-based learning activities and testing their hypotheses through hands-on experiments. Of course, sometimes lecturing is unavoidable, but students should not spend the majority of class time in their seats copying notes.

Problem-based learning activities allow students to solve an authentic problem through inquiry, research, and collaboration. For example, the teacher may share a story about her difficulty growing her garden. She simply can't get her plants to stay alive. Could her students possibly help her with this problem? The students, having just studied the anatomy and life cycle of a plant, are equipped with the knowledge and resources to solve this problem. There is no one correct path, and the students must demonstrate independence, critical thinking skills, and effective collaboration in order to successfully solve the problem.

Gaining Support Within the School

Let's be honest. Every teacher thinks his or her subject is the most important subject for students to learn. It should be that way. We all should have an innate passion for what we teach. It's what makes us great educators. It's now your turn to point the spotlight (or the microscope) on your content. So, how can you accomplish this?

As with any sales pitch, you have to sell it to your administrators and colleagues. Take the same approach you did with your students. Explain how science education connects to them. Your administrator has to see how your approach is going to improve student achievement, and how it can be done within the school's budget. Begin with the end in mind. What is your school's mission statement? What do you, as a school, hope students will accomplish before they leave? Most schools want to foster and develop students' critical thinking, technology, and collaborative skills. Science education helps to accomplish all of this. It's time to put your bragging shoes on and show just how much value your program brings to the school.

In terms of your colleagues, collaboration is key. How can you work as a team to achieve the goals of your programs? Science connects to all contents, and vice versa. Consider ways in which you can deliver an interdisciplinary curriculum. An interdisciplinary curriculum, also known as cross-curricular education, is an instructional delivery that deliberately demonstrates skill and content connections between the disciplines offered. A great way to slowly introduce this approach is through joint projects. Is the math team introducing Pythagorean's Theorem? Perhaps you can team up to identify cross-curricular skills that you could address in both classrooms. The more connections students are able to make between contents, the more likely they are to commit the skills and concepts introduced to long-term memory.

The Importance of Community Support

This is where it starts to get really exciting. There are so many opportunities for you to reach out to your community for resources, support, and publicity. Following is a list of potential ways to involve your community.

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