Mini-Summit on Science Education

We invited a group of scientists, engineers, and other innovative thinkers to have a round025 table discussion about trends in science education.  The event was electric!  The energy and excitement of this group as they spoke about possibilities was contagious.  We will meet again on March 18 to continue the discussion and to expand connections and possibilities.  Here is a summary transcript of the conversation.


  • Kurt Arnold, Civil Engineer (Parker parent)
  • Len Berube, retired GE Engineer and entrepreneur
  • Jaya Dasgupta, Microbiologist, HVCC (Parker parent)
  • Chris Fasano, Neuroscientist, Neural Stem Cell Institute
  • Max Levine, Psychology professor, Siena (Parker parent)
  • Daryl Ludlow, Mechanical Engineer, RPI, Union: fuel cell expertise
  • Josh MacWilliam, Internet entrepreneur (Parker parent)
  • Nicole Theodosiou, Associate professor of biology and genetics (Parker parent)
  • Al Weatherwax, Dean of Science, Siena; astrophysicist
  • Shelli Casler-Failing, Parker Mathematics teacher, LEGO robotics
  • Jamie Crouse, Planet Parker coordinator, geology and environmental science
  • Katy Perry, Parker Science teacher, environmental science
  • Meg Taylor, Head of School

Discussion: What are ways to develop scientific inquiry in students?

LB:  Reading, writing, using their hands; thinking conceptually.  Get tools into kids’ hands;unnamed (1) stimulate students at a young age.

NT:  College students do not know how to ask questions.

KP:  Ideas and possibilities are endless: loving learning is key.

CF:  The scientist in me has always learned this way: “Questions are king!” Students have to learn to ask questions.  “Curiosity-based education” is essential.

SCF: The younger you get kids into robotics, the younger they’ll love math.

KA:  Thank you to Len and Chris for the engines project and the trip to NSCI – you made my daughter ask questions.  It was so rewarding to the kids.  Now my daughter is asking about the sky and wants to see Jupiter in a big telescope!

CF:  There are a lot of unknowns in the world for kids to be curious about.  Killing NASA and things like that kills exploration and wonder. Take down the mystique of science – you CAN find things out.  Asking questions starts the imagination – Go find out!

DL:  Survey the kids to find topics they are really curious about.

LB:  The take away is:  It’s good to make mistakes and also there can be a “right way” to IMG_2492use tools.  Building something from scratch – using hand tools is what kids want to do to know how something works.

SCF:  STEM Week: spaghetti bridges at first, then building a real bridge.

KP:  Kids need to be able to share their ideas – to reach out with new ideas.  For the teacher it’s finding the balance between basic skills and cool projects.

JC:  We need more time to do the big projects.

LB:  Kids need tactile skills with a scheme to learn and remember.  Asking “Why?” and “How Come?” is important.

KA:  Parker has the flexibility to use time and the schedule the way we want to.

JD:  Students could take some projects home – share with the family.  A whole week with something they think about.

NT:  Kate does everything so well!  She teaches all grade levels. She needs the ability to leave some projects out on the table so that everything doesn’t have to be put away each time the students leave the classroom.  Bean bag chairs would be great so students could sit near projects and think.

AW:  Like a maker lab.

KA:  An artist space, a builder space.

CF:  Curiosity spans all disciplines.  How would I design a school?  Project-based learning.  All disciplines could feed into projects – use the project as a focal point.

KP:  In K-1 and 2-3 we do that, but pacing interferes with a purely project-based curriculum later.  It would be great to have the time to plan some more integrated projects for 4-5 and middle school.

DL:  For example, the sewer system – an invention with a huge impact – could be a project.  Sewer system/industrial revolution/water systems.  Or the whole school could read a book and have a theme day with different projects from every class.

NT:  It’s important to have the appropriate challenge at the appropriate age.

KP:  Finding a balance is crucial.  What’s the priority?  Well defined guided inquiry is effective.

KA:  The thesis – presenting in in front of peers and peer instruction.  Presenting science projects is a great skill for students.

CF:  In science: they have to write it up and present it.  Kids have to be able to do this.  It teaches confidence.

AW:  Have a high level science fair – peer review – a science journal.

CF:  You could put science posters in our lobby!

AW:  We would invite them to Siena.

SCF:  First LEGO League is a great forum.

AW:  You could have an Astronomy Jamboree: people bring their telescopes.

LB:  We live in boxes.  A future oriented facility could be a module – round – with open labs and a cupola/observation deck.  MIT, Stanford, Google have amazing spaces.