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ORANGE COUNTY VOICES

All Students Deserve Scientific Approach

January 11, 1998|NATHANIEL LAMM | Nathaniel Lamm is a retired administrator with the Orange County Department of Education. He writes from Santa Ana

The news on student test scores in the "basics" and other subject areas has not been good. The headline from last fall, "Only 30% of Pupils Test Proficient in Science," (Oct. 22) should urge educators, school board members and parents to rethink how science can be emphasized and integrated into teaching and learning the basic skills.

Children at an early age are inquisitive and responsive to learning opportunities that involve "senses on" activities and can serve to encourage more and diverse reading, writing and computational applications.

Orange County is blessed with a diverse number of science education programs. These include the Outdoor Science School and Field/School Programs operated by the county Department of Education, the Orange County Marine Institute, Future Scientists of America, Project Tomorrow, the Discovery Center and the Science and Engineering Fair.

These programs provide unparalleled opportunities for students to learn science in highly stimulating environments. For example, the Outdoor Science School and Field and School programs provide exciting learning opportunities at natural historical locations throughout the county and in the San Bernardino Mountains. These programs place emphasis on geology, botany, zoology, meteorology, astronomy, oceanography and ecology.

These experiences give students a springboard into the basics: research, writing, computational applications and oral communication skills. Most important, they bring excitement and personal reward into the learning process. Activities before and after classroom work can introduce, reinforce and expand these learning experiences.

About one-third of Orange County's 470,000 public and private school students participate in one or more of these science education programs each year. All programs operate on a "pay as you go" basis, with relatively few tax dollars involved. Unfortunately, too many schools and thousands of our students cannot participate due to the lack of financial resources. Pragmatically, lack of those educational experiences impact student test scores, particularly in science.

With a relatively small investment a significantly greater number of our students could be actively learning about the wonders of our natural environment and integrating those experiences with basic skills.

As our communities and businesses continue to grow and diversify, there will be increasing demand for a well-educated and skilled work force--particularly in science, technology and communication. Orange County's varied science education programs provide many of those requisite skills and experiences. What we need is the will and financial commitment to support them.

Basic test scores are an important indication of a student's educational progress. However, we must continue to ensure and invest in a complete, well-rounded education for all students. Providing stimulating learning experiences in "nature's classroom" can help.

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