Aaron Isabelle on how to “Keep Wonder Alive”

December 16, 2013
Professor Aaron Isabelle

Professor Aaron Isabelle

“We all have that natural scientist within us,” said Professor Aaron Isabelle (Elementary Education) during his presentation, “Keeping Wonder Alive: Reflecting on the Status of Science Education in K-12 Schools,” on Dec. 2 in the Honors Center.

Isabelle discussed the current state of science education for grade school students as part of New Paltz’s Faculty Excellence Speaker Series. He presented evidence that science education has lost significant attention in favor of English and mathematics in the age of standardized testing. He said, “This is particularly problematic, because young children are natural scientists. Evidence shows that people start loving science as children.”

The lecture was focused around four main points: the goals and values of science education; the effects of No Child Left Behind on science instruction; student achievement in science; and challenges posed by the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSE). Among his many findings, Isabelle presented evidence that No Child Left Behind has made it nearly impossible to teach science, with three times as many minutes spent on English Language Arts instruction and twice as many minutes spent on mathematics. He noted that while No Child Left Behind calls for science assessments in schools, there is no accountability attached to them.

Isabelle is one of five recipients of the inaugural Provost Award for Excellence in the category of teaching excellence. Andrea Varga, associate professor of theatre arts, also earned an award for teaching excellence. Secondary education professor Julie Gorlewski won the outstanding pre-tenure faculty award, philosophy professor David Appelbaum won for scholarly and research activity, and psychology professor James Halpern received the award for excellence in professional service.

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