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NCSE: This Week in Evolution & Climate Change is All About Teachers

NCSE: This Week in Evolution & Climate Change is All About Teachers


This week in posts from the National Center for Science Education, its team members talk about the importance of the science teacher in the classroom.

The Power of the Science Teacher

Minda Berbeco is a regional director for the California Science Teachers Association (CSTA), a position she ran for three years ago after encountering a set of educators who encouraged her to take stand.

At a CSTA conference, Berbeco sat in on a presentation from two educators who were teaching fellow physics teachers how to encourage students to debate whether solar activity or human action was responsible for climate change. In other words, Berbeco found the two science teachers to be science deniers—right there at the CSTA conference.

Berbeco took a stand by running for a board position for CSTA. Now, every year, she ensures that science teachers involved in CSTA understand that students need to get the best and most up-to-date science.

"It’s an exciting time to be in climate change education, as the changes that we see in the classroom now will empower students for the rest of their lives," she said.

Read her full post here. 

The Science Classroom Needs Well-Qualified Teachers

As Steven Newton points out this week, one of the biggest subjects that faces teacher shortages is science. As a result, substitute and fill-in teachers often end up at the helm of science classrooms, but many are not as qualified as they should to be to teach the subject.

Newton analyzes the many reasons why teacher shortages exist, from the combination of high student loan debt to low-paying teaching work and a backlash against the widely-adopted Common Core standards, but argues that a change is necessary for the near future.

And he argues that the way to do so is not to focus on reform after reform.

Want to improve science education? Want to increase the number of science teachers in teacher training programs and earning credentials? Want to start the school year with permanent teachers in every classroom? Then create an environment where adults are properly compensated for their work, where teachers are not blamed for every manifestation of social problems, where meaningless tests given for the sake of “accountability” do not dominate the school year. Science education, and education in general, could benefit from the reform of being free from endless “reforms.”

Read his full post here.

Teacher Answers Q&A About Homo Naledi Fossils

If you're a teacher who's been following NCSE member Stephanie Keep's recent posts, you've surely heard her advocate for the teaching of the Homo Naledi fossil discovery in the classroom to teach the exhilaration and process behind scientific discoveries.

This week, Keep talks to a sixth and ninth grade biology teacher who has some inside information on the subject.

John Mead from Dallas, Texas became an insider on the info when he struck up a friendship with paleoanthropologist Lee Berger

A connection via social media resulted in Berger teaching Mead's students, and the two struck up a friendship in figuring out how to share Berger's amazing discoveries with young students.

Keep then asked Mead about how he did, in fact, manage to share the Homo Naledi findings with his class.

"By the time of Dr. Berger’s November 2014 visit to Dallas, we had seen some photos of some of the fossils, and my middle schoolers were able to begin hypothesizing about what they thought these fossils might represent. Given we had no dates and only glimpses of the fossils, it was a valuable lesson in looking ahead to what sort of evidence my students wish they had access to," he said.

Now that the data of the discovery has been revealed following the Sept. 10 announcement, "this year’s group of students has the chance to compare the fossils (some of which I just 3D-printed a few hours ago) to other species and wrestle with the claims of the H. naledi team and its critics."

Mead also had some suggestions for science teachers who would like to get better at teaching evolution in his or her science classroom. He tells teachers to embrace what he calls "safe" discussions of the topic.

"Topics that naturally allow for 'safe' discussions of human evolution can be the genetics of skin color, the evolution of lactose tolerance in modern humans, and the susceptibility/resistance to malaria in certain populations. When we focus more on the genetic aspects of human evolution, it allows students to be more comfortable with the idea and allows for further exploration into deeper hominin history.

Read the full post here.

Compiled by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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