The fact that we’re behind other international school systems when it comes to STEM(science, technology, engineering and mathematics) wasn’t news to me as I hear about it all the time, what was news to me was how far we’re behind. According to the most recent study the US ranks 25th in the World for science and math scores. And apparently 52nd in the quality of its science education. Again, it wasn’t news to me that we’re behind Hong Kong or Japan, but we’re behind Australia?! It seems the dingo ate our SAT scores. Unfortunately, joking about dingos isn’t going to help us compete in a global economy.
I often hear the press, our elected, soon to be elected, or wanting to be elected officials bemoaning the fact that incoming college freshmen are reluctant to choose science majors. Unfortunately, by the time our students reach the age to pick a college it’s often too late to inspire them, re-direct them, or re-educate them in the sciences. It needs to start earlier.
That’s where SABES (STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools) comes in. SABES is a Partnership between core partners Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) who work within neighborhoods to build a Community Enterprise for STEM Learning. This enhanced science curriculum has been made possible by a National Science Foundation grant. Over the next five years SABES will focus on nine Elementary/Middle schools to improve STEM curriculum in grades 3-5.
One of it’s supporting partners Greater Homewood Community Corporation or GHCC recently coordinated a showcase event for STEM at the 29th Street Community Center.
The night of the event started with an interactive science demonstration provided by The Maryland Science Center. Science principles such as sound conductivity, static electricity, simple circuits, magnification, waves and gravity were all displayed in a understandable, enthusiastic and entertaining way.
The students and even the adults were held in rapt attention as if they were watching a stunt or a magic act; a tribute to The Maryland Science Centers performance, and also a demonstration that science can be presented in a way that’s engaging and entertaining for children. It was fun to watch the students clamor to participate and be involved with the different demonstrations.
After the Maryland Science Center demonstrations the students held their own demonstration of projects they had created themselves over the last couple of months. The GHCC organized the night well as the energy of the first demonstration led into the students presentation.
Straw rockets propelled by compressed air shot from the corners of the gym, a simple Maglev magnetic train was led down it’s track, and paper plate parachutes dropped from the rafters as the students buzzed with enthusiasm and pride in their work.
There were many Johns Hopkins University students who support the SABES program in attendance and they filtered through the room taking in the displays, watching the presentations and asking the students to explain what they had built. This co-mingling of engineering and science University students with grade school students seemed to an enriching benefit in itself.
STEM Achievement in Baltimore Elementary Schools is part of the solution. The night gave me hope.