Contributed By:

Alex Johnson

Bill Nye the Science Guy

OPB | Aug. 30, 2011 9:06 a.m. | Updated: Sept. 10, 2013 10:33 p.m.

One of the arguments for sending astronauts into space was that doing so would inspire future generations of scientists. Now that the shuttle program has ended, what will inspire students to study science?

When I was in grade school, I often watched a public television science program called Bill Nye the Science Guy. The host of the show (and our guest), Bill Nye, made science exciting, interactive, and interesting. In short, he made science fun, and even though I haven’t pursued a career in science, I still have a deep appreciation for it.

There are other science-based television and radio shows that present science in an exciting way, like MythBusters and Radio Lab. Even academics have acknowledged that science education ought to be interesting. A report released in July by the National Research Council created a framework for science curricula. One of the main goals of the framework was to “ensure that by the end of the 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science.”

Making science interesting can be difficult. It requires the right teachers and often, small class sizes. Small classes are important because too many students in a laboratory can turn an exciting chemical reaction demonstration into a safety hazard. And as you’d expect, class sizes depends on school funding.

The data suggests that science education in the United States has room for improvement. President Obama has said so throughout his time in office, and pledged additional funding to support it. In terms of science education, how can we improve?

What did you love — or hate — about your science classes? What do you think policy-makers, educators and parents can do to improve science education? Or do you think we should be pursuing other priorities?

GUESTS:

  • Bill Nye: Executive director of The Planetary Society
  • Richard Donin: Educational consultant
  • Adam Cole: Production assistant at NPR

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