STEM makes headlines every day--a definite education priority from the highest levels of government on down. The goal: invigorate the teaching of science, technology, engineering, and math in our middle and high schools and raise America's academic standing in the world.
Like many others, President Obama has been quite vocal about the shortcomings of STEM teaching and our students' lackluster testing performance, hence the government's push for improvement. To that end, he has...
o Initiated an annual White House science fair.
o Launched his "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a nationwide effort to move America's students up from the middle of the pack in math and science.
o Challenged scientists, engineers, educators, the private sector, and governors to join him in a national campaign to engage students in STEM fields.
o Given a competitive edge to states that commit to improving STEM education in his Race to the Top grant contest.
o Recently honored about 100 outstanding middle and high school math and science teachers from around the country at the White House.
o Applauded the grassroots National Lab Day initiative intended to revitalize science and math education and lead to increased American competitiveness.
And as he has said, "Passionate educators with deep content expertise can make all the difference, enabling hands-on learning that truly engages students-including girls and underrepresented minorities-and preparing them to tackle the 'grand challenges' of the 21st century, such as increasing energy independence, improving people's health, protecting the environment, and strengthening national security."
Despite such good intentions, however, there's been no apparent trickledown effect when it comes to the award-winning Science in Motion program.
In 1987, a group of Pennsylvania teachers teamed up with Juniata College and the National Science Foundation to find a way to help high schools access the modern high-tech equipment they needed to prepare their students for STEM careers but could not afford.
Ever since, thanks to their efforts and a partnership of twelve Pennsylvania colleges and universities, Science in Motion (SIM) has been providing the equipment, scientific personnel, and hands-on modern science and technology training our students need and should expect.
For instance, in Montgomery County, that service is provided by Ursinus College's SIM program. Students in such districts as Norristown, North Penn, Owen J. Roberts, Perkiomen Valley, Souderton, and Spring-Ford have all benefited. Just last week, seventh graders at Spring-Ford Middle School were trained on digital microscopes.
All this at no extra cost to the individual school districts.
Says Ursinus's SIM Mobile Biology Educator, Ron Faust, "Science in Motion is simply a great way to improve science education in an incredibly cost-effective way. It gives teachers the tools and instruction they need to effectively teach their subjects... I have taught for 41 years in this area and have never found any program that was more effective in bringing students the joy and excitement that science offers."
Sounds grand, doesn't it? And yet...
Despite all the political talk about the need for exceptional science, technology, engineering, and math instruction, the axe has fallen on this unique-to-Pennsylvania, Governors Award for Innovation-winning program. After Saturday, February 6th, it all ends. Governor Ed Rendell saw to that when he cut all funding for Science in Motion--$1.9 billion-from the state's budget and immeasurably set back STEM education throughout Pennsylvania.