Monday, February 1, 2010

Hope in NYC

Last week I attended an event at NYU called Sci-Ed Innovators, in honor of Jhumki Basu, an amazing science educator who passed away at 31 in 2008 after a long struggle with breast cancer. There is a nice write-up at justcallmefrizzle about it. I am helping the Jhumki Basu Foundation build a collaborative website to support "the democratization of science," as Jhumki called it, for kids in grades 6-12. We are focusing on underserved urban youth because traditional science is just not relevant or accessible for them. I visited several schools in NYC last week in conjunction with the event and saw amazing teachers who are doing so much under so many constraints. It's not just an issue of money - you can clearly see that there are so many policies that undermine teachers' abilities to provide student-centered learning environments. Restrictions on the amount of time teachers spend with students, the mandate to strictly follow pre-determined curriculum guides, and constant concern about prepping for standardized tests are just a few ways teachers' hands are tied. In fact, after I observed two teachers' lessons, they apologized to me for not having more creative approaches and student-directed work. Both are frustrated with the restrictions they live under. I know these experienced teachers would provide more engaging, relevant work if they could. And so we will be providing a forum on our Sci-Ed Innovators platform for policy discussions as well as ideas for new ways to make science relevant and engaging. This should make our site unique and engaging for teachers, science educators, and school leaders - and hopefully we will start a movement for real change.

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