Indianapolis Public Schools - Biology Knightstown High School - 1st and 2nd year chemistry for college bound students and also general chemistry Cascade High School - 1st and 2nd year chemistry
Project based open-ended inquiry, with emphasis on integrated math and science instruction.
4 Time presenter at HASTI Volunteer at Indianapolis Children's Museum
University of Evansville - B.S. Chemistry Ohio State University - M.S. Chemistry Indiana University - Teaching certificate in Chemistry and Biology
Traditionally, science education in American schools has been an important, albeit poorly defined, subject. Critics of U. S. education have called our science curricula “a mile wide and an inch deep” and American text books tend to treat science as a hodgepodge of various fact-filled topics. Science teachers are usually confined to the topics covered in their science textbooks. If the textbook publisher, for example, decides to dwell on volcanoes then the teacher may devote a large amount of class time covering volcano terminology at the expense of exposing their students to the use of science process skills. The need to combine math with science is widely recognized as a high priority goal for science education yet science curricula has tended to avoid this area; especially in grades K through 9. In addition, most K through 9 science teachers do not receive adequate training to deal with integrated math and science curricula so teachers may prefer to treat science education as a hodgepodge of various topics. Because of teacher training and inadequate curricula, most U.S. students are not exposed to using integrated math science curricula until they take their first chemistry course in high school. The current trend in U.S. science education tends to interfere with a student’s ability to comprehend higher level science classes in high school and beyond. Students face a further impediment to science education at the beginning of their academic instruction. In the elementary classes, most teachers tend to put science instruction on the “back burner” of their curricula planning because the teachers are encouraged to focus their time and resources on curricula that pertains to math, language arts, social studies. Teachers tend to feel more comfortable with teaching the non-science subjects not only because non-science subjects like math and language arts appear on the state and national assessment tests but also because teachers tend to lack an understanding of science in general, and integrated science and math curricula in particular. Ignoring the importance of teaching process skills and refraining from incorporating math with science during the elementary and middle school years does have a profound impact on students’ abilities to understand basic science principals later. For example, I gave a simple solution density lab to my students in a high school chemistry class. The students were sophomores and juniors, and most were expecting to attend college after graduation. The students were given a beaker of water and a beaker of a low-density alcohol. They were told to mix the liquids in various ratios of alcohol and water, measure the solution density and graph the solution density vs. the % alcohol. They were then given an unknown solution of alcohol in water and told to measure its density then find the % alcohol from their graph. Not one student in four sections could make a graph and complete the lab because they could not graph the data. In another high school chemistry lab, the students, mostly juniors and seniors, were given density problems (Density = mass/volume). They were given two of the three variables and asked to solve for the unknown. None of the students could do the problems but all the students could solve math problems based on the (a = b/c) equation. When the students realized the similarity between the two equations, every student in all sections could work the density problems. In a 7th grade middle school, students had finished a study of three-dimensional solids and density. Students, ranging in ability from mainstream to gifted-talented, were given a quiz to assess their understanding of density and, therefore, their understanding of ratios and constants. The first line of the quiz stated “The objects shown below were made from a wood material with a density of 1.5 grams/cm”. The students were then shown six different combinations of stacked blocks with labeled dimensions. Out of 130 students, one student either guessed correctly or realized that the density of a material remains constant regardless of the shape or quantity of material. The apparent inability that students display with the basic idea of density underscores a more ominous problem in science education. Students in the United States do not receive sufficient education regarding the integration of math with science, and consequently, receive insufficient instruction in the areas of problem solving, data analysis, graph interpretation, and group project work. These examples serve to emphasize the need for the development and implementation of integrated science and math curricula in our public schools. To optimize the development of critical process skills, the curricula need to address science and math standards, emphasize the development of team-work skills and be implemented at the early elementary level.