Thanks to all that responded to the ideas in Friedman's article. It was
good to see some dialogue about teaching and learning issues even if it
was short. As someone commented we don't have enough of that going on
these two lists.
My interest in Friedman's ideas stem from my first teaching experience
from 1958 to 1967 and my first national curriculum development and
professional development experience from 1967 to 1970.
I started teaching shortly after the Sputnik event. The teaching of
science and mathematics and hence engineering was supported at the
highest level. I started as a elementary science coordinator/teacher in
two small k-12 districts in the foothills of New York's Adirondack Mts.
From the beginning of job the leadership in both schools developed some
pretty interesting goals for the position.
1.) Develop and implement an experience based science/math/language
arts curriculum for all students k-8.
2.) Integrate that curriculum into the high school so all students
would receive at least three years of NYS Regents based science.
3.) Develop and implement a professional development program based on
the science/math/language arts curriculum for ALL teachers k-12.
4.) Obtain the professional development for myself that would enable
me to carry out the goals.( I spent the summers of my first four
summers on that job in six to eight week summer institutes for
science and math teachers - thanks to the National Science
5. Develop collaborations with local businesses and colleges.
A big load for a young, green, just graduated science teacher!! What
saved me was the support from school leadership, the school boards, and
the community. After the second year of the program the community
organized and operated a K-12 science fair. After three years 75% of
the students were entering projects, many made it to state and national
After four years in that position I moved to a larger school district
near Rochester, NY and spent the next five years implementing a similar
program. The science fairs continued and a local TV station helped us
develop a 30 min. once a week science program that was developed by the
students. Again school leadership and community support made the
The NSF continued to support science/math teacher development and in
1964 I completed my graduate work in science education. In 1967 I left
teaching and joined a national science curriculum development group
Elementary Science Study (ESS). By that time we were seeing results
from the work in the schools I had left- it was and remains exciting.
Many students from the schools were going on to study
science/math/engineering in college and then entering careers in
science/math and engineering. I still hear from these students about
their professional efforts in the sciences.
We had very little technology at that time - lots of telescopes and
great little microscopes - we had a one to one microscope program!
When students entered K their parents were given a low-cost microscope
(10x to 60x) and received a three hour session on use of the tool. The
greatest technology came from the school and local libraries - BOOKS!
We flooded the program with this technology. The students made a lot of
the equipment we used and we got lots and lots of "stuff" from the
local phone company - wire, old phones, bells, magnets, etc. I often
wonder what the program would been like if we had the IT of today.
So what made this program work? - leadership support with vision ,
money from the NSF, focused professional development, integration of
curriculum, and community support. One other factor was important
was that science wasn't being tested or reported on report cards- so I
and the leadership of the program pushed the program in directions
important to us.
What has happened to these programs? They lasted another 10-15 years
and little by little have disappeared. One of the messages that I took
from Friedman's was that we need science programs like this to ensure
we don't lose our place in the world as the creators and designers.
When I write this I think of my new bike - the idea for the bike was
created in the USA, designed in USA, the parts were made in South
Korea,, put together in USA and sold by a firm in Japan. Flat earth!!
I have gone on much too about this, but one more interesting thought -
several times during the Masters Golf match there was information from
ExxonMobil about the creation of the Mickelson ExxonMobil Science
Teachers Academy to provide professional development in science for
elementary teachers. Perhaps we can get Tiger to do one for high school
teachers. We really need some help in the upper grades.
Frank J. Watson
St. George Island, FL
"I'll see it when I believe it"