Tag Archives: science

New Approach Proposed for Science Curriculum

A new curriculum is being written that hopes to improve science education in the United States. The new framework will focus less on memorization of facts and more on critical reasoning with an added focus on engineering. Helen Quinn, who led the 18-member team that worked for over a year devising the framework, described the problem that these revisions aim to resolve: “The failing of U.S. education today [is] that kids are expected to learn a lot of things but not expected to be able to use them.”

According to the committee’s report, the new curriculum will focus on the following areas of science: physical sciences, life sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering, technology, and the applications of science. The report also explains its goals and what it hopes to gain through a revamped curriculum.

“The overarching goal is for all high school graduates to have sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on science-related issues; be careful consumers of scientific and technological information; and have the skills to enter the careers of their choice.”

So far, only the framework has been completed. The task now falls on nonprofit education group, Achieve Inc., to expand the framework into a set of standards. They hope to finish this within the coming year, though it may take several more to complete rewriting lesson plans and text books. While standards and curriculum are changing, core concepts, including evolution, will not change. “What we’re not going to do is compromise the science just to get states comfortable,” Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, told the New York Times. Each state will have the ability to choose whether or not to adopt the new set of standards.

The report adds to a growing number of voices, including those supported by Spark, that is driving toward the creation of a future learning environment that recognizes the value of values hands-on, participatory learning, the doing and the making that characterize so many Spark projects.

Girls Take Top Prize at Google Science Fair

Although women make up nearly half of the world population, their presence in the sciences constitutes a vastly smaller percentage. Today, only twelve percent of engineers are female. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM for short) are all fields in which women are under-represented. This is precisely why this year’s Google Science Fair results are so exciting–all three top prizes were awarded to women.

The winning projects put the classic baking soda volcano to shame. Lauren Hodge, winner of the 13-14 age group, tested a variety of marinades and their effects on the carcinogens typically found in grilled chicken. Her findings showed that lemon juice and brown sugar sharply decreased carcinogen levels, while soy sauce actually increased them.

Naomi Shah, winner of the 15-16 age group, performed a study of 103 adult subjects where she was able to link the increase in two environmental pollutants to decreased lung function and asthma symptoms.

The grand prize was awarded to the winner of the 17-18 age group, Shree Bose of Fort Worth, Texas. Bose’s project focused on the chemotherapy drug cisplatin that is commonly taken by women with ovarian cancer. Bose discovered a protein known as AMPK that, when paired with the drug, stops cancer cells from becoming resistant to its effects. Bose shared her feelings in an interview with ABC:

“That perception that women can’t compete in science has been ingrained in this field for so long. It just shows that our world is changing and women are stepping forward in science, and I’m excited to be a small part of that.”

This year the fair received 7,000 entries from 91 countries. Despite the notion that the US is falling behind in the sciences, 60% of these entries were from Americans, and all three winners are citizens of the US.

Google scientist and fair judge Vinton Cerf told the New York Times that, “a common thread among the finalists was that they had explored science enthusiastically for years with the encouragement of their parents.”

As part of their awards, the winners received internships at Google, Lego, and CERN, ensuring them a good start to what will surely be successful careers in science.