You’re invited to a Math-and-Sciencepalooza at the 7/23 School Board roundtable

When we started the new School Board roundtable meetings, one of my priorities was to periodically bring in specialists to talk with us about ideas and points of view we might not be able to otherwise hear in regular work sessions and business meetings.

So I’m thrilled to welcome FSU Physics Professor Paul Cottle and UCF Physics Teacher-in-Residence Adam LaMee to Polk County for our roundtable on Tuesday, July 23. The meeting starts at 10 a.m. in the Superintendent’s Conference Room at the main administration building in Bartow.

Egalitarian evangelists for Science and Math

Paul and Adam are passionate advocates for meaningful, enriching science and math education that prepares as many students as possible for the rigors of math and science in college — and also provides lasting benefits for students who aren’t math and science majors or don’t go to college at all.

It is well known in Florida education circles — though not terribly much discussed — that the state is not doing a very good job with Science and Math education. Access to in-person courses in high level sciences like Physics is declining. (In a piece of good news, Polk County has actually expanded access to in-person Physics classes in the last couple years. That is bucking a statewide trend.)

Paul Cottle writes about these issues often on his excellent science education blog, “Bridge to Tomorrow.” He and I met virtually, trading posts and discussions on Twitter.

And you can listen to Adam talk about that on this NPR “Florida Matters” discussion from last year, which Paul then wrote about in this article. 

In other places trying to buck the trend of diminished Science and Math experiences, Paul and Adam have helped do the bucking. Both men work closely with local districts. And both emphasize bringing meaningful science and math education to a wide, diverse array of students. Both are particular advocates of encouraging girls to study more math and science. And both champion a hands-on approach to science. Both teach a model called “Studio Physics.”

And I’m excited to report that they are bringing some toys.

Calling all math and science teachers who can spare a couple of summer hours

This promises to be a fun discussion, which I hope will lead to lasting partnerships with the district and perhaps some enhancements that help us reach more kids and align them more effectively with the requirements of science and math careers.

What I really like about these guys is this:

  1. Their approach is honest, but not punitive. Both have talked with me about the importance of encouraging and enticing kids toward science — rather than requiring it on pain of punishment of some kind.
  2. Both have respect for the liberal arts and the importance of blending science with humanities. Paul recently participated in a program than combined dance and physics, measurement and performance. The “studio” model is a social model of instruction.
  3. They’re here to help, not judge. They want more kids to have more meaningful science and math experience that prepare them for math and science careers. That means building capacity by bringing people into the profession — and encouraging and supporting the people already in it.

I know it’s summer; and we have a lot of vacations. But I invite any of our teachers, especially math and science, to drop by to check out what Adam and Paul have to say.

If you can’t drop by, we’ll be videoing the discussion. I’m really looking forward to it.