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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Why Science Education matters*

Science teachers and educators around the Commonwealth gathered together at the historic Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center, Roanoke, Virginia,  for a three-day professional development institute (PDI), November 20-22.

Sponsored by Virginia Association of Science Teachers (VAST), this yearly educational event helps science teachers get new ideas to enhance their teaching, while they  experience a cutting-edge technology and earn recertification points or extra college credits.

Educators network with fellow science teachers from all over the state and hear nationally known keynote speakers and presenters who are expert in their own field. Participants also see exhibits from different exhibitors, corporate member-partners and sponsors, and organizations that support science education.

The institute aims to expand and promote excellence in science education, as well as science literacy in Virginia.
This year’s theme is Sparking Innovation: Enhancing Student Learning Experience for Everyone.   

Science education matters. That’s why this group of talented teachers and educators converged in Roanoke.

While my wife Freny, a chemistry teacher, was busy attending sessions, I had the opportunity to ask a number of participants why they believe science education matters.

John Richardson, a faculty member of Ferrum College and Virginia Tech, said: “The idea of informed citizens is the most important consideration. I focus on climate change to a great extent and the importance of a “knowledge-based’ is critically important to make political decisions based on science.”

Stephanie Harry, a chemistry teacher at Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, wrote: “Education is power. Science is fundamental in the advancement of our society. We must work (hard) to prepare our students so they can continue to contribute to the advancement of our society.”

Fifth grade teacher Ravi Nair of Hanover County said, “As we prepare students for the future, certain process skills will be needed. These skills can only be developed by providing students with meaningful experiences that involve critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork.”

Marsha Brown, fifth grade teacher at Tanners Creek Elementary School in Norfolk, wrote: “ Science education matters because science is everywhere. It helps students understand the natural world. Science encourages them to become life-long problem solvers and critical thinkers.”
Joseph Wieland, a Biology graduate student at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, opined that science education matters because it “extends your questioning (beyond) what you already know and what others say, based on facts and opinions. It teaches you how to question to get new ideas and information.” [He said that questioning expands your specific knowledge of other branches of science like biology, chemistry, etc.]

“We have kids in different classes who have slightest idea about issues like Ebola virus, global warming, health care and space program, and they’re uninformed,” said George Dewey, a physics teacher from Fairfax. “They don’t know what and who to believe. That’s where science education comes in.”

One of the association’s standing committee chairs on policy on awards and grants, Dewey said that science educators try to stress logical thinking process as one of the keys in learning. He said critical thinking is a byproduct of science education.  

A Science Instruction Specialist from Campbell County, Lanie Patrick said, “Science education is the epitome of thinking, asking questions, and finding answers. It’s what we know about our world and how we understand it. Science (education) is learning.”

[Karen Leslie, a middle school physical science teacher and a colleague of Patrick, said that science education matters because it stresses critical thinking and critical thinking is important in education, work, and learning.]

To all teacher-participants in the VAST event, thank you for all that you do to spark and enhance our students’ learning.  

[Venue for next year’s VAST conference will be at Westfield Marriott Washington Plaza in Chantilly, VA, Nov. 19-21, with its theme Designing Inquiring Minds.]

-Chris Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at

*Published in the award-winning Suffolk News-Herald, Tuesday, November 25, 2014. For more information, visit

NOTE: Below are photos from the 2014 VAST PDI at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, Roanoke, VA. Photos copyright 2014 by Chris Quilpa

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