New Canaan schools take technology to the next level
Published 5:37 pm, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
"Nations like China and India realized that with some changes of their own, they could compete in this new world," President Barack Obama said in his recent State of the Union address. "And so they started educating their children earlier and longer, with greater emphasis on math and science ... . So, yes, the world has changed."
The world has changed and nowhere is it more evident than in the areas of science, math and technology. Students in New Canaan are prime examples of this shift. At tech night this year, students amazed their teachers and parents with projects that showed a sophisticated application of science and math integrated in other areas of study ranging from business to history. New Canaan's already high performance on the Connecticut Mastery Test (CMT) and Connecticut Academic Performance Test (CAPT) have also been steadily improving in the areas of math and science with 2010 being the highest. In fact, New Canaan scored highest in their District Reference Group (DRG) in fifth-grade science for the CMT and second in science for the CAPT. Math scores were also high in the DRG across the board. Unfortunately, this is not the case everywhere else in the country.
"The quality of our math and science education lags behind many other nations," Obama said. "America has fallen to ninth in the proportion of young people with a college degree. And so the question is whether all of us -- as citizens, and as parents -- are willing to do what's necessary to give every child a chance to succeed."
Whether through tech night or test scores, the fact remains that New Canaan is the example the President wants the rest of the nation to follow. Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning is something many of the educators in New Canaan are stressing in this day and age.
"I believe that New Canaan has always demonstrated a strong commitment to math and science education," Jennifer Lee, the Math Department Chairman at the high school, said. "Although many students in New Canaan achieve at high levels in math, I would like to see more students pursuing math-related college majors and careers after high school. I think we can do a better job of helping more students view a STEM-related career as an attainable goal."
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So the idea is to not just have students perform well in these areas but foster a passion to pursue these goals. Lee believes that life after high school for these kids is just as crucial and has been coming up with ideas, along with her colleagues, to spark interest in students for STEM careers.
"I think that our best response to President Obama's recommendations is to find innovative ways to spark more students' interest in math and science and to help students pursue their passion for these subjects in hopes that they will go on to careers in math, science and engineering," Lee added. "A group of elementary and secondary leaders in math, science, and career and technology education in New Canaan have been putting their heads together for just that reason, and we plan to share some of our ideas at a Board of Education meeting in the spring."
With technology advancing at rates faster than most can comprehend, students in New Canaan are being prepared to meet those challenges. The days of chalk, outdated textbooks and saying your dog ate your homework, unless your dog ate your computer, are numbered. Science Department Chairman Tim Haag teaches Earth Science and Astronomy in a classroom that also doubles as a planetarium. So Haag does not always have to wait for a clear night sky to show his students the big dipper or the north star, it is readily available, albeit at one third the size, in his classroom. The world has indeed changed and Haag agrees.
"We live in a rapidly changing world in which technology influences more aspects of our life every day. As individual teachers, as a district, and as a society as a whole, we have a responsibility to prepare our students with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand our world and make responsible decisions," he said. "These decisions will not only affect our lives in the short term, but will influence future generations as well. The better we can equip young people to identify, understand, analyze and solve scientific challenges, the brighter our future will be."
Who knows, maybe a New Canaan student can develop a time machine to see if we succeeded or not. Anything is possible.