Science Inside and Outside the Classroom
by Paul Carbonella
With a Ph. D. in neuroscience, Sarah Berke has had many career options. She has worked at Bioscience Explorations running outreach programs for the general public and ran her own science education consulting firm. After a two-year stint teaching biology at Quinnipiac University, she wanted to continue her career at the K-12 level, and recently completed her first year teaching science at Ezra Academy.
“I missed interacting with students,” says Berke, who earned her Ph. D. at the University of Iowa. “I missed collaborating with other teachers, and I missed teaching K-12.”
One study shows that less than one percent of American elementary and secondary school teachers have a Ph. D. The beneficiaries of Berke’s advanced knowledge has been her students, as she has led them through a variety of exciting high-level experiments and activities, such as dissecting a sheep’s heart. Her students also participated in an activity with the goal of creating a bridge from toothpicks capable of carrying a 40-pound object.
She says these activities get students excited about science and provide her with some insight into how well they grasp specific concepts and gives them real-world opportunities to apply their knowledge.
Beyond knowledge of the sciences, students gain skills that will serve them well in a wide variety of endeavors. “It teaches them to work collaboratively on presentations, understand scientific design, and the think critically.”
The activities also help to develop other integral skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration.
“During many of these activities, the students don’t even realize how much they’re learning until it’s over,” she says.
“I believe science education is extremely important for young people today,” she says. “Science is driving the modern economy.” As future voters, she says, her students will need to have a background in science to vote competently for leaders in an age when science and technology-related issues are increasingly important.
“When they are old enough to vote,” she says, “they are going to require knowledge of these subjects to make responsible decisions.”