Math and Science Educational Resource Availability, Part 1

[The first of two articles discussing the availability of math and science materials on the Internet.]

I heard it a lot in the 1980s and 1990s. It is now 20 years later and I still hear it:

Recent studies indicate the American educational system is failing to provide a sufficient level of math and science instruction for our children. Therefore, we are falling behind in the global race to prepare the next generation of engineers and scientists.

I’m not sure if it was true then; I’m not sure if it is true now. But, at the bottom line, it doesn’t matter what the studies indicate. What matters is that we DO something to address math and science education, whether we’re lacking in it or not. We need to provide the resources. I’d be saying the same thing even if all the studies ever conducted indicated that we were far and away providing the best math and science instruction on the planet. It’s pretty hard to get too much of a good thing. And keeping up with the latest technology is more than a full time job.

I have two suggestions:

  • Don’t look at education as a competition; look at it as an opportunity never to be squandered.
  • Don’t lay the entire burden for education solely on the American educational system; take the responsibility back into the home and other non-school activities.

Resources Abound

The Internet, by way of the World Wide Web, is now the ideal resource for locating materials to directly advance this goal. It’s a double win: the act of learning the computer technology required to search the Web for more technology is a success all on its own. The resources are out there. They’re not all that difficult to find. Once identified, the key is using them correctly.

The Hurdle of Preparing Lesson Plans

Despite an overwhelming and ever increasing number of resources, there is a fundamental flaw in expecting teachers within the structured educational system to fold the new and innovative elements of math and science into their classroom activities. The plain fact is, teachers are:

  • generally overworked with their current assignments;
  • expected to follow a strict set of standardized lessons that don’t allow for much deviation, and so limit innovation;
  • unable or unwilling to spend the extra time and money converting the “raw material” of the new and the innovative into classroom-ready presentations.

One solution to some of these fall-backs [in spite of all the “other stuff” that is out there on the Web just waiting to snare and entrap the innocent children from grade school and junior high] is to simply TURN THEM LOOSE! A risky proposition? Yes. So put in all the filters and site regulators that you feel are needed. But, for Pete’s sake, turn the students loose. Just point them in the right direction. There are some excellent sites that can keep them busy for weeks on end.

Another solution is to totally drop the expectation that high technology learning will ever be fully integrated into classroom curriculum and simply move forward. That’s where “content providers” come in. They are the ones capable of either developing materials that are a finished product for in-classroom use or for taking on the role of both developer and presenter. But without access to the classroom, the venue for this material presentation will be the Web itself.

An Introduction

Let me introduce you to one site that I’m personally familiar with…. because I’ve put it together myself for a specific purpose: to be an entry point for nearly countless educational web sites targeting aerospace and astronomy. It’s the website for The Aerospace Educational Development Program (AEDP) at http://www.AerospaceEd.org. Is it complete? Not by a long shot. It’s a work-in-progress. But already it has several areas that offer some premium math and science resources.

More details of this resource will be discussed in Part 2 of this two-part article.

Science Education: What, When and Why?

Science education is a field that looks into teaching science to those who are not members of the scientific community. Subjects that are taught deal with life, earth and space and the information that is passed onto students through this course is intended to help them through in their entire high school education. Individuals belonging to various age groups can take up science education such as children, adults and also college students.

Various types of methodologies are used in the process of science education. These methodologies are borrowed from various branches of science such as anthropology, cognitive science, computer science and cognitive psychology. In the United States, the National Standards sets the standards for this education. The unique aspect about this standard is that it is more inquiry-based, than something that makes use of direct instruction. It is on the whole, found to be an effective model for teaching science, even though there are elements in that that some feel are a bit controversial.

One type of science education is informal education, wherein students learn outside their formal school curriculum. Such education is imparted through community-based programs. The media is a strong instrument in imparting informal science education and such information can be passed along through videos, various types of visuals and also print medium. Examples of informal education through media are TV programs such as Dragonfly TV, Bill Nye the Science Guy, The Magic School Bus and NOVA and that offered by community-based programs are Afterschool Programs and 4-H Youth Development programs.

Informal education plays an important role in imparting knowledge on science because it spread awareness in an informal setting, along with interesting visual aids and context-based voice-overs that make the subject easy-to-understand. It is an effective means for imparting science to people, without taking them into complex issues, while giving an overall understanding on the subject.

Science Educational Toys Popular With Kids Today

As children grow the best things for them to learn and play with include things which are geared toward more science educational toys. They can learn and have fun at the same time. Educational toys help younger children brains develop at a faster rate. Science teaches them not only how things work or how things can be made but also how things in nature and the Earth works and why. These can be fun for the entire family to enjoy and join in on the creating and the building.

One fun and colorful scientific wonder toy is that of special brightly colored sand which when placed in water stays dry. Once it is in the water your child can then have the task of creating different shapes and forms with use of a straw. Another sand related activity is being able to play at digging of cosmic rocks. These are made from Tektites which are meteorite fragments that your child can actually dig into and explore.

They can also grow there very own crystals easily by a kit which includes everything they need. The chemicals within dissolve once they are added to water and then turn into brilliantly glowing crystal like formations. This only takes a few minutes for the chemicals to take affect, then your child can enjoy there new crystal display for weeks even months to come. This helps teach them a little about chemistry and how certain things combine together.

A classic educational toy which also habitats living things is that of the Ant Farms of the early days and still high in popularity today as well. Only now these great farms have new technology to make them even better. Some have illuminated LED colored lights to let your ants live in color. This also helps you to see what goes on in the ant habitat at night as well.

Since we are on the lines of pets your child can have without the mess of paper training an more. The great Triops habitats are perfect for every child to hatch and take care of. Even adults enjoy these Jurassic creatures birth and living habits. They really are crustaceans whose lineage can be traced to the prehistoric era. They amazingly have not two eyes but three.

They can live in their habitat up to three months and get at adult stages about three inches in length. Each day you will notice them growing even more. Their coloring is very bright and they oftentimes can be viewed swimming on their backs leisurely. Most habitats you but come with about thirty Triops and everything from gravel fossil rocks and food to make their lives healthy and happy.

Another fun classic toy from the adults childhood days is the bird that drinks on his own. The crazy bird itself is made from glass which has been hand-blown and his bottom is filled with liquid in various colors, usually red, blue or green. You position him over a his glass on the stand that comes with kit and then gently tip his head to were his beak is in the water and let go. The fun begins when the bird starts drinking by himself from the full glass of water and the colored liquid rises from his bottom into his throat.

Your children can also experiment with and use the wild and crazy clock they make from two potatoes. This is a favorite in the science educational toys with children. It is amazing how two potatoes will be able to run your digital clock with just the attachment of copper zinc electrodes into the potatoes and then voltage of a lower current is amassed by the reaction of oxidation and reduction. Use the potatoes as a guide and experiment with other fruits and vegetables to see if they work like the potatoes do.