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Making Science Sizzle for Students

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A group of scientists in their 70s and 80s is working on a new strategy to make science more exciting for today's generation.
A group of scientists in their 70s and 80s is working on a new strategy to make science more exciting for today's generation.

There hasn't been a measureable change in U.S. students' science test scores over the past 15 years. What has changed, though, is that a number of other countries are doing better.

"Our culture unfortunately doesn't give science doesn't get attention it deserves," says Don Rea, a former space scientist who founded the group Senior Scientists and Engineers. "Science literacy you should start addressing that as early as possible which means elementary school, because as kids get older they become fixed in their attitudes."

The SSE goes to schools in Montgomery County and Fairfax County and talk to students about their work. These scientists say the way to interest students in science is to link to something children find relevant. Robert Thomas is an analytical chemist, and he uses clips from TV shows such as CSI. Or, for example, after the tsunami in Japan, students wanted to know more about the nuclear leaks there. 

"I put together two talks on nuclear fission and nuclear fusion and I related it to information in the media about contamination in sea water, in the vegetation," explains Thomas. "It really was an introduction to nuclear chemistry, but done on a very basic level."

Collette Freeman was a cancer scientist. She says she's trying to show children how science touches all of us.

"I think it's important for students to think of science as something that's useful to them personally. Day by day," says Freeman. "Whether it has to do with their habits of eating, staying out of the sun, not smoking and relating biology with things that can go wrong with you. If you just ask the question 'do you know anyone who has cancer?' everybody raises their hand. And they want to ask questions 'Why did my grandmother get cancer, am I going to get cancer?' That's very very important, you have to get them interested."

The Senior Scientists and Engineers program is hoping to recruit approximately 30 new volunteers for this school year.

[Music: " Science vs Romance " by Rilo Kiley from Take Offs and Landings]


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