Friday, March 06, 2009

School without a science teacher

I have volunteered to conduct science experiments with fourth grade students at a local elementary school. The school doesn't have a science teacher. This is in Boston, a city known for its progress in biotechnology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a science corridor of high-tech companies along the Route 128 beltway. I will be volunteering at a private school but a public school, a block away, is in the same straights and relying on volunteers from the same program to expand their science curriculum because the public school also doesn't have a science teacher on staff.

I am more a romantic, intuitive dreamer than a hard-nosed analyst. If I am teaching science to youngsters, something must be wrong with the system. I would prefer to lead field trips wandering around the neighborhood appreciating abandoned buildings and well-crafted brickface facades, but that is an indulgence that comes secondary to productive, deductive thinking. I understand how electricity works and how density allows for flotation and the biological food chain and whatever else our experiments are supposed to prove. With that background, I have the leisure to appreciate the more ephemeral aspects of my surroundings.

That children who attend schools adjacent to the Longwood Medical/Academic Area don't have a science teacher doesn't pass the smell test for a well-rounded education. Mission Hill and Roxbury are lucky to have responsible corporate neighbors with deep pockets who can pay their employees to lend a helping hand and provide staff, however marginally qaulified, to guide students through a few, pre-packaged experiments. Do Dorchester schools have the same resources available to them?

I assume the corporate entities in Longwood employ more college-educated persons than the businesses in Fields Corner. I don't think Tedeschi Food Mart or Mad Rag are offering their employees to help out at that neighborhood's schools.

Something is broken and that something needs to be fixed. I don't have the answer but I will do my part to shed a little light of enlightenment and the miracles of critical thinking about natural facts for one hour a week in Mission Hill. I can only hope someone else is doing the same in the thick of Dorchester's school system. Boston, and the world, needs more children who will grow into adults, who grasp the basics of the universe's mechanics.

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