The Link's Science Pages:
What an eye-opening moment when one discovers that science is all around us! As a young girl on a farm, what better way to observe nature than to go to the barn where the cows were being milked? Through the years, the exposure to science through my own explorations and through the eyes of my children’s schooling made me realize how important science was throughout one’s life.
When speaking of science, one considers the integration of mathematics, engineering, and technology as a part of the “umbrella,” science. As a chemistry major, a homemaker-chemist, and involved mother, the importance that science played in our daily lives- cooking, cleaning, shopping, playing, elementary nature walk leader, scout leader, museum volunteering- pointed to the establishment of an organization that would play a major role in training teachers to involve children in the excitement of discovering the world through science. The organization, MITS, Museum Institute for Teaching Science, has been offering institutes for teachers, whether teachers in schools or teachers at home, for the past twenty years. Attendees at these institutes have been exposed to the science resources that exist in their neighborhoods, the museums. Within the museums are the exhibits, materials, and educators to enhance one’s knowledge of the world that surrounds us. The museum educators have been an integral part of the MITS Summer Institutes since the beginning and have served as a major resource for many school children. Activities developed by the participating teachers have been collected each year and are available as a major resource to interested educators.
Early in the development of MITS, one of the teacher-participants came up with the idea that a resource book of experiments using an inquiry-based method in conjunction with the curriculum would be a great addition for teachers or anyone involved with teaching science to children. This could and hopefully would establish a curiosity in children that would last through their adulthood making them good sentinels of a universe that changes daily. Thus was the beginning of Science Is Elementary (SIE), a four issue yearly resource publication. Along with fun, exciting, and inexpensive experiments, the readers are made aware of books, videos, web sites, and background information to enhance the concepts offered. One fun and involved activity is related here. This also could be used at a party with a group of children.
Through the years, MITS became involved with the Massachusetts Department of Education’s, Parent Involvement Project (PIP), which involved parents, educators, community, and administrators in becoming active in their children’s science and math education. During the five years of PIP’s active involvement, MITS played an important role in developing activities for children and families with the final product being a publication called, Creating Family Friendly Activities, still available today.
The country and indeed the world are in the process of redefining education and how to provide it and how to assess its success. The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law has set standards of improvement of test scores for different grade levels of students. The concentration so far has been on mathematics and literacy, but in the next year or two, science will become a prescribed part of NCLB. Recent studies have shown that inquiry-based, hands-on science, the tenets of MITS, improves students’ reading scores. Enhancement of students’ curriculum with materials developed by MITS would give students the chance to explore different aspects of the work which is often not possible in many prescribed curricula.
The fun and learning that can be experienced when students are exposed to inquiry-based, hands-on science will encourage them to become life long learners and to enjoy the world around them as they will always observe something new. It opens a whole new way of seeing the world.
To find out more about MITS and its resources for you go to www.mits.org/publications.htm. ■
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