Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Science on Tap October 2006

Last night Marja Brandon, the Head of School of the Seattle Girls School spoke to us about Women in Science. A lot of people know or have heard that girls love science up to about 5th grade and unless they are encouraged many do not make it past middle school with that love of science (math included) intact. Marja has taken a really exciting approach to attacking that problem, and the cool thing is what she has come up with doesn't effect only girls.

The fact that I have two girls entering this time of life concerns me, but I also have kids in the Seattle Public Schools and if you have seen the news at all over the last couple years, you know that there are reasons to be concerned with our children's education here in Seattle. School closures are not the solution to a criminal act that caused a fiscal shortfall. Teaching to the WASL doesn't work. Buying down the class size in the public school system borders on illegal. But mostly we have an antiquated system that isn't forwarding a society that is ready to take on the challenges of the future.

Marja feels that we should be taught in a manner that works for our brains. Novel idea. That means incorporating all those important topics (i.e. reading, writing, math, critical thinking, art, public speaking etc.) at the same time. You don't go to work and think... I'll start with my english, do math a little later on and leave the critical thinking part until after I've had my coffee...

Of course, anyone who incorporates brain science into teaching styles is my hero... but she does this in a section of Seattle known for it's lower income constituents, and the school isn't filled with smart white girls. Her intention is that anyone who wants a stellar education gets it. She shared with us that a girl called up the school and asked "I can only afford $90 a month, can I come?" Yes, this is a private school, but only because the public school system isn't up to taking on this teaching style.

Some of the novel approaches:
Teachers teach all subjects.
Invention Convention: students design, mock up, develop and present novel inventions to "mock" investors.
Grand Rounds: students learn a medical field and community physicians have them present to large groups what ailment the mock patient is suffering from.

I've probably butchered what actually goes on, but I would have loved learning this way as a kid. We've got to drop a big chunk of cash on this woman so that the rest of our kids (girls and boys alike) can benefit from an education that will make a difference and literally leave no child behind.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine grew up in NYC and attended a private school on that model. I agree that it's more suited towards what happens in the real world, i.e. in a job. But - one of the things she had trouble with was dealing with a more traditional system once she got to college. The woman was bloody brilliant but barely passed her Dartmouth chemistry class, because she wasn't used to that style of learning. And in some cases (like memorizing amino acids), subject-centered learning is pretty valuable later on.

I guess balance is the key...