The Best of Our Knowledge
3:29 pm
Mon July 20, 2009

The Best of Our Knowledge # 983

Albany, NY – U.S. NEEDS 200,000 MORE NEW MATH AND SCIENCE TEACHERS

"THE CONTINUUM OF SECONDARY SCIENCE TEACHER PREPARATION: KNOWLEDGE, QUESTIONS, RESEARCH", Pt. 1 of 2 -

A new report from the Carnegie Corporation argues that the nation must "do school differently" in order to make excellent mathematics and science learning possible for all Americans.

The report, "The Opportunity Equation: Transforming Mathematics and Science Education for Citizenship and the Global Economy", says that knowledge and skills from science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are crucial to virtually every endeavor of individual and community life. It maintains that all young Americans should be educated to be STEM-capable no matter where they live, what educational path they pursue, or in which field they choose to work.

Priority three in the suggested Carnegie four-step plan calls for an increase in the supply of well-prepared teachers of mathematics and science at all grade levels through improved teacher preparation, recruitment, and professional learning.

And therein lies the proverbial rubber meets the road.' Some estimates indicate over the next decade, U.S. schools will need 200,000 more new teachers in science and math. That comes from the Business-Higher Education Forum in Washington.

Meanwhile, the Council of Chief School Officers compiled a report last year indicating that many school districts already face shortages. It reveal in at least 10 states, fewer than 6 out of 10 middle-school science teachers were certified.

Dr. Angelo Collins acknowledges these conditions. She's Executive Director of the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation. Dr. Collins says, "We desperately need more qualified science and math teachers because of retirement overcrowded classrooms and people teaching out of [their] field."

Glenn Busby reports. (8:22)

**(Attention Listeners and Program Directors. To learn more about the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, they're online at : www.kstf.org.)**

ASTROBIOLOGY RESEARCH AND EDUCATION SERIES

"ZIRCON AS A WINDOW INTO THE EARLIEST HISTORY OF EARTH", Pt. 1 -

In more science related news, nearly 100 university instructors and students saw their experiments rise to the sky last month with the successful launch of a NASA suborbital rocket from a flight facility in Virginia. The week-long workshop provided hands-on learning experience for future scientists and engineers.

Meanwhile, after reviewing more than 3,500 applications, NASA has selected nine men and women for the 2009 Astronaut Candidate Class. They begin training next month in Houston. And as one would suspect, several come from technical and science backgrounds, including MIT and RPI - Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Our next guest is Dr. Bruce Watson, Institute Professor of Science at the aforementioned RPI. Dr. Watson is a faculty member in their Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

When most people think of NASA, they probably think of outer space. But NASA also believes it's important to fund research looking at "inner-space" (as I call it). Dr. Bruce Watson is investigating Earth's history, just years after it was born.

Glenn Busby reports. (9:41)

The preceding is made possible by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, through support of the New York Center for Astrobiology, located at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute - in partnerships with the University at Albany, the University of Arizona, and Syracuse University.

**(For more information about this story, or any of the other more than 150 stories featured in this current and past exclusive radio series, or if you would like to hear them again via your computer, the website given at the conclusion of the above segment is: www.origins.rpi.edu.)**

SCIENCE RELATED EDUCATION HEADLINES AND UPDATES -

A study published online by the journal, "Science Education", suggests that depth matters in science studies. The authors built their research on a national survey of 83-hundred undergraduates enrolled in their first college science courses.

The study found that high school students who focus more intensely on core topics within their biology, chemistry, and physics classes fared better in beginning college science, than those who delved a little bit into a larger list of topics. Observers say those findings could offer direction to developers of science curricula, tests, and textbooks.

In more NASA news, and an update to previous research stories we've aired about Mars, the red planet may have been "life-friendly" more recently than first thought.

According to a paper just published, warm weather near the Martian equator may have melted the ice in ice-rich soils as recently as 2-million years ago. This comes from close examination of images taken by a camera aboard the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The pictures show that landforms, once thought to be shaped by volcanism, were actually modified by the expansion and contraction of ice, due to freeze-thaw cycles. Since liquid water is essential to life as we know it, this equatorial location would be an ideal place to hunt for traces of past or present Martian life.

Glenn Busby reports. (1:30)