Freeman Hrabowski, Mike Summers Offer Ideas for Improving Science Education

“If you could make one change to improve science education in the United States, what would it be?” asked the New York Times in a special feature published Monday, September 2. Nineteen people answered the question, and among them were President Freeman Hrabowski and Mike Summers, HHMI Investigator and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“We need to create opportunities to excite students about how math and science connect to real life,” said Hrabowski, adding that he would like to see more programs offering teachers the chance to apply their skills outside of the classroom. “A teacher who has worked summers in green construction engineering can show their students how they’ve used geometric concepts.”

Mike Summers said that he would like to see more students come into the lab to work on real-world problems. “When things like that happen, the kids begin self-identifying as scientists. They stop thinking that a science career can be theirs 10 years from now — an eternity to an adolescent. They think of themselves as scientists, now,” he said.

Also quoted in the piece were Najib Jammal and Deon Sanders, the principal and a student at Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore. UMBC’s Sherman STEM Teacher Scholars program recently began a multi-year partnership with the school. Through the partnership, Sherman Scholars, along with Shriver Center Peaceworkers and Choice Program caseworkers, will work with school leadership to develop school- and family-centered strategies that address student and community needs.

Jammal said that he wanted students to be able to apply their STEM learning to projects that benefit their community, and Sanders summed it up by saying, “I need science and math education to be more about life.”