Don't pit science against reading, math

Proponents of the No Child Left Inside Act are making a mistake by pitting it against No Child Left Behind, Eduwonk argues.

Outdoor “education was not happening in any systemic way prior to the passage of No Child Left Behind – especially in higher poverty schools,” he writes.

The issue here is not No Child Left Behind, it’s schools that do not use science, the environment, history, etc. to fuel a powerful instructional program but instead employ empty calorie type teaching. Those schools and the problems that give rise to them should be the target of these efforts not a federal law that holds schools accountable for teaching students reading and math and focuses especially on minorities and poor students. The notion that reading and math is at odds with teaching kids about conservation is absurd and counterproductive.

My daughter was educated in good public schools in the pre-NCLB era. Much of science education consisted of singing songs about not littering, making posters about not littering and learning the parts of a flower. It all took place inside the classroom.

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  1. Bravo, Eduwonk!

    I have one child who was merely “allowed” to learn science (and social studies). That is, if it happened to come up in a reading text, no one would stomp it out of existence. Not a single science project was ever assigned. No songs were sung. Since he was educated as a child with learning disabilities, the predominant thought was: we teach reading and math. There will be time for the other things later. How much and how much later, one wonders.

    I am grateful that my state has included testing in science, but without the “stick” that comes with NCLB, there hasn’t been much response, beyond head shaking, at the low scores prevalent throughout the district.

  2. “That is, if it happened to come up in a reading text, no one would stomp it out of existence.”

    –That made me smile, Margo. I can relate.

  3. I guess I was lucky, back in the 70s. We went outside and caught bugs and stuff and took them back into class and looked at them with hand lenses and tried to figure out what they were. We had to write reports on astronomy. We did stuff with soil. We learned about human anatomy using Visible Man and Visible Woman. We did the sort of “simple” safe chemistry stuff like mixing vinegar and baking soda. Really, lots of the basic science stuff is exactly the kind of stuff that upper-elementary kids find lots of fun – stuff that is kinda gross but also kinda cool.

    We actually had real science classes with a teacher who liked science. I think the “liked” part makes a big difference.

    Of course the fact that both my parents are scientists, and they encouraged me to catch bugs and stuff and try growing a garden and look at weird rocks and things on my own time probably helped as well.

  4. Learning science is so much easier when you can neither read nor write.

    I suspect some here still don’t really understand that we are regularly graduation illiterates from our public schools. This needs to change. Many other things need to change, too. But literacy and numeracy come first.

  5. graduating. Looks like I’m one of them.

  6. Ms D:

    I wish I could say that they succeeded with reading and math and moved on.

  7. I certainly agree, Mrs. Davis. We homeschool 6th-12 grades, and reading and math are the top priorities.

  8. Ummm… I should have said we home school OUR CHILDREN for 6th grade and up (we have a fairly nice elementary.)

  9. in this passage the the author has stressed on what children are taught about science in schools. in those schools the children are taught that they should not litter or pollute the environment.

  10. My Middle School principal has just informed the school staff that every Tuesday the students will not learn science or social studies, but will be taught math and language arts by their science and social studies teachers.

  11. Walter Wallis says:

    Since the science our kids do get is Lysenkoist, why bother? Paly Will headline anything by Gore or Moore, but forget rational science.

  12. Outdoor education?

    Dang, sometimes you have to be careful about eating a cup of Ramen noodles while reading edu-blogs to avoid the possibility of passing some noodles out through your nose. But maybe I’m being to narrowly focused on that tedious educational outcome when there are whole worlds of specious edu-crap to be explored.

    How about inverted education?

    Maybe there’s educational benefit to having kids stand on their head during a lecture? Perhaps more blood going to the brain will improve attentiveness?

    Photophilic education?

    Since a catchy name seems to be a big part of the attraction in edu-fads I’ll just dress up turning the lights on as an exciting new pedagogical frontier.

    With some imagination the possibilities really are practically endless. How about some specious “research” that proves fluorescent lights negatively impact the learning of children of color? In the tradition ed schools, the results of the research would naturally be determined by the most desirable outcome.

    Sometimes watching the public education scene is like flipping through old editions of National Geographic.

    Looking at all the colorful customs and bizarre rituals it’s easy to forget they actually serve a purpose, or once did, but that the purpose doesn’t make sense outside the context of that quaint, distant culture.