Rebecca Davis Testimony – DCPS SY2021 Budget Hearing

DCPS Public Budget Hearing

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Maury Elementary School

Thank-you for having a slide on EQUIITY, SUSTAINABIILITY & TRANSPARENCY since that is what II would like to address with regards to science education in DC Public Schools.

My name is Rebecca Davis I am an environmental education consultant and live in Ward 1 and work in Washington D.C.  I am contractor for MWCOG Clean Air Partners, and work on air quality and climate change education regionally. I am also a member of the DC Environmental Education Consortium- DCEEC one of the DCPS Science team Community Partners and as such have volunteered as a teacher trainer for Engineering is Elementary- EiE cornerstones.

I run the 1 min Climate Change film challenge with some funding from OSSE. And through OSSE ‘s Environmental Literacy Advancement Grant-ELAG funding I co-teach (Clean Air Partners) and Casey Trees a set of four investigations on air quality, its impact on our health and the role trees have in sequestering carbon and absorbing pollutants to 5th graders.

I stand before you as a witness to DCPS and DCPCS science education for the past 14 years. Equitable access to science education has been and continues to be an issue in DCPS.

I am excited that there are new science teaching requirements as of 2019 from The Office of Teaching and Learning. Science must now be taught (as a standalone subject) at minimum for:

  • 45 minutes/day (for the equivalent of at least one semester) in grades K-2
  • 30 minutes/day (for the entire school year) in grades 3-5

To understand DCPS’ commitment to this change I would like to make sure we appropriate the  funding necessary to the DCPS science team to enable them to sustain this change. To provide  professional development to ES teachers so that this additional 2 1/2hr of science instruction per week is valuable. And that a mechanism is put in place to hold ES accountable to implementing this new requirement.

It is the responsibility of a society that depends on science and technology, to educate and prepare its youths with basic science and engineering principles. It is our responsibility to have a student…

  • who has asthma know the basic structure and function of their respiratory system and know what triggers his/er asthma?
  • that understand food web and bioaccumulation so as to know not to eats fish s/he catches in the Anacostia?
  • to understand how trees grow and therefore understand how planting tree can mitigate climate change?
  • to know that phytoplankton provide more than half of the oxygen we breathe on Earth and therefore acts on keeping our ocean’s healthy?

Humans are born curious. I see my granddaughter less than a year old, testing the difference between a refrigerator sticker and a magnet, testing gravity with objects, testing velocity and friction with her body on playground slides. She doesn’t know yet, but she is playing with scientific principles or methods.

Our job as educators and parents is simple, it is to encourage curiosity and observations, embolden youths to ask a million questions (whether we know the answer or not) and support their countless experiments that follow. But let us be clear scientist don’t just do science experiments to test their hypothesis, they read about science, they write about science, and talk science. We can encourage our students to do the same. Science education is not an either-or, teaching science explicitly supports literacy and numeracy development and achievement.

Our job is to find ways to keep students interested in sciences as they finish elementary school when we see a significant drop off interest in science. Our job is to find ways to encourage interest in sciences and engineering through MS and HS , to create scientifically literate citizens who understand and can act on important issues  that will be facing their generation such as Climate Change and perhaps more importantly understanding health disparities  “life expectancy being shorter than their parents”.

We can do this by 1) increasing and having transparency regarding the science budget for DC public school if not in dollar amount then at least percentage compared to ELA, Math and Social Studies  2) developing ready set science cornerstones for all grade bands and providing PD  3)  assessing/measuring the success of the changes made to the Elementary Science Scheduling Requirements. As of 2019 The Office of Teaching and Learning requires that science be taught (as a standalone subject) at minimum for:

  • 45 minutes/day (for the equivalent of at least one semester) in grades K-2
  • 30 minutes/day (for the entire school year) in grades 3-5

As Neil deGrasse Tyson stated “ The problem in society is not kids not knowing science. The problem is adults not knowing science. They outnumber kids 5 to 1, they wield power, they write legislation. When you have scientifically illiterate adults, you have undermined the very fabric of what makes a nation wealthy and strong. “

Thank you for allowing me to address this important topic.

Rebecca Davis- rnjidavis (at) gmail (dot) com

 

 

 

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