By Don White
A couple of weeks ago I wrote how Barak Obama had overlooked science and math in American schools and said the important thing was to learn a foreign language. When he comes home from his expensive campaign trip to Europe, Iraq, Israel, and Afghanistan he will probably say we should all learn Arabic.
Cooler minds across party lines in America have laughed off this pretender’s patois and are going forward with tuition free public charter schools that teach science and math. Soon they will speak the jargon of the educated scientist, instead of someone off the streets or that of a certain junior senator when he returns to his Illinois electorate for donations.
Orlando, Florida is one of those areas of enlightenment. They call them Orlando Science Schools (6-12) grades…”serving greater minds.” You can get details at http://www.OrlandoScience.org and if you have a school child you may want to hop right on it because limited spots are available for the 08-09 school year. I’m sure that’s the case throughout the country where these charter schools are springing forth faster than beefsteak tomatoes on a vine.
These schools are this country’s answer to America’s critics who say we are in decline, that we don’t have enough scientists and mathematicians to carry us into the new age of scientific achievement and beyond. Their goal is to ensure that students develop the skills needed for the long learning. The academic environment is designed to promote high expectations of each student in pursuit of high excellence through participation in many competitions and contests, including:
· Science Olympiad
· Math Olmpiad
· Spelling Bee
· Geo Bee
· Odyssey of the Mind
· Science Fair and more
Here’s an example of the emphasis these kids will get. Orlando Science Middle School will use a variety of student assessments to evaluate teaching and learning processes and to improve the school environment on a consistent basis which includes:
· State assessment programs
· Locally-developed unit tests
· Classroom-based assessments
· School wide competitions
Schools are heralding the advent of what they call “21st Century Classrooms.” Orlando’s science middle school will have classrooms with SMART Board interactive whiteboard systems to serve the students better with the help of technology. What are they?
Students can do a lot of things interactively with Smart Boards. These Numonics Digital boards and Quarte’s IdeaShare Interactive Markerboard. are for connecting to the PC given each student in the special school. The teacher can digitally projector the material she has developed for use any program on your computer while standing at the board. Students will be able to see the material up close, work with concepts, work problems and use such accessories as portable tablets, board stands and extra interactive cordless pens. How much of this high-tech stuff will greet the students on the first day is up to the various school districts’ budgets.
Here is a description of one of the boards, for example. The Numonics Digital Presentation Markerboard above connects to the teacher’s PC and projector and helps her conduct interactive, engaging lessons. She can use images from her PC and access computer applications directly from the whiteboard. The teacher simply touches the electronic multimedia pen to the board surface and draws or takes notes to save later. Presumably in some cases, students will have a small version of the board and/or a laptop on his or her desk on which they can save presentation data. Teachers can tap the icons to use the pre-loaded presentation tools. The durable hard Formica surface has a matte finish that prevents hot spots. This interactive markerboard is incredibly simple to set up and is compatible with Mac and Windows operating systems. It includes a cordless electromagnetic pen. The board above is 63.3″ x 45.6″ and sells for about $1,400.
But just the fact that schools are now concentrating on math and science should give this country a huge step forward for the years to come. Maybe we can even catch up with Finland who lead the world in this area. Of course there is one thing Finland does that we neglect. That is concentrating our schools on learning, not playing.
Currently, American High Schools are structured to have student athletic teams, cheerleaders, performing bands and choral groups, and student body officers with dances, assemblies and a lot of wasteful fluff that could be eliminated to make American schools academically competitive.
Our schools should not be training grounds for Major League Baseball, The NFL and the NBA. Who cares if we don’t field the best track and field team in the world, have the best swimmers, skiers, runners, and players of all sports? Schools are for learning and math and science is of paramount importance