Monday, March 7, 2011

Scientific Tools and Techniques Program (STT) Open House

With all the hot chatter about STT and Fernbank Science Center, I thought folks with rising 8th graders or those with curiosity might want to attend this event. Thanks to Brittany Cunningham, Principal, Sequoyah MS for the heads-up. -Kim

"The Scientific Tools and Techniques Program (STT) is a semester-long course for 9th grade students designed to familiarize students with the tools and techniques of scientific inquiry. STT students practice problem-solving skills utilizing a fully integrated science curriculum. Through laboratory and field work, students explore all aspects of science, gaining a better understanding and a greater appreciation for the scientific process.

Rising 8th Grade Students apply for entrance during the Fall semester through their science teachers, who have applications and printed brochures.

A STT Open House will take place at Fernbank Science Center on Thursday, March 10. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. and the program starts promptly at 7:00 p.m.

Please contact the [your MS] main office or your 8th grade Science teacher for more details."

41 comments:

Cerebration said...

Thanks for posting this Kim --

Anonymous said...

This is an excellent program. I've had friends' children participate in it. It's efficacious because the students meet every day for the entire semester. However, considering Fernbank Science Center cost DCSS around $7,000,000 a year to maintain, it's hard to believe that this program that serves 90 students a semester cannot be done less expensively. I also think parents who have children in this program should bring them to the program. I can't imagine what it costs to bus 90 students from all over the county to this program.

Before the FSC supporters go crazy, I know you offer some AP classes after school, but really - is this worth $7,000,000?

Anonymous said...

As has been stated over and over on this blog, the Fernbank Science Center provides much more that STT and AP classes after school. It may not be worth 7 M but please be fair and provide the complete picture.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Not worth $7,000,000. So why not keep the few excellent programs and cut the rest? Do we really need 35 admin and support personnel to 28 teachers? I'm sorry to have to blog this, but it's so upsetting to see millions and millions put into this center (particularly in admin and support positions) while 96,000+ DCSS students have teachers who are using their own money to purchase science supplies and equipment and many high school classes have 35 students - precluding any labs for students.

FSC Instructor said...

STT is for high school freshmen. The STT open house is for CURRENT, not rising, 8th graders and their parents.

Please stop quoting the $7,000,000 unless you define what that is for. Science education costs money, and these are teachers and facilities that serve science education only. Fernbank staff go out to schools every day, have travel programs visit the center, and conduct numerous staff development programs. STT is just one of the programs, and not one teacher teaches only STT.

If you "can't imagine" what it costs to bus 90 students to FSC, then I suppose you can't imagine what it costs to bus student athletes to games over a much wider area. But perhaps you don't question that expense--after all, student sports will help these kids succeed in life so much more than improving science education will.

The problems facing science education in DCSS are vast--crowded classrooms that exceed recommendations by NSTA as well as NSF; science teachers who weren't trained in what they teach because layoffs have forced reassignment; abysmally poor science scores that shame us compared with other states and other countries; and parents who attack Fernbank Science Center rather than working with administrators to use this great resource of highly trained experts who want, more than anything else, to turn on your kids to the fun of science. Any of you who have had kids in STT realize that this should be the norm for science education, and you should help bring the rest of DCSS up to this standard--not spend time tearing down one of the few things in the county that actually works.

Cerebration said...

I agree. This is DCSS standard protocol. Spend an exorbitant amount of money on programs for "special", "gifted" or otherwise "lucky" students, while spending very, very, very little on ordinary, everyday students and instruction. (Robbing Peter to pay Paul.) IF - however, instruction was respectable, even exemplary across the system, hardly anyone would notice or complain that additional money was spent on extra programs.

This is a matter of a third-world mentality. Stealing from the masses in order to provide extras for those considered "special". It's not right. Unless and until ALL students receive a respectable science education, the Fernbank Science Center will be looked upon with envy and jealousy. Rightfully so, IMO.

Fight for the masses before you fight for the add-ons.

Cerebration said...

Don't get me wrong - I love Fernbank. But really, is it fair to have a "Fernbank Science Center" for some students and inadequate daily science instruction for others? Is that kind of inequity something we can overlook? Live with? Support?

For more on our Fernbank report - click here:

Are the proposed DCSS budget cuts going to harm the classroom while leaving expensive, special programs intact?

Anonymous said...

@ FSC Instructor
"Please stop quoting the $7,000,000 unless you define what that is for.'

The $7,000,000 has been broken down time and time again on this blog. But here it is again. Look at this article to see the detailed breakdown:
http://dekalbschoolwatch.blogspot.com/2010/03/are-proposed-dcss-budget-cuts-going-to.html

Mastery of science content will ONLY be achieved with daily science instruction with a competent teacher. Science instruction cannot be a once or twice a year experience. ALL DCSS students need DAILY science instruction with a competent teacher. FSC science instructors are excellent, but 28 science teachers cannot impact 96,000 to the extent that DCSS students need. Look at our science scores. Year after year they continue to decline.

Are you comfortable with the fact that there are more admin and support than teachers at Fernbank?

Anonymous said...

"If you "can't imagine" what it costs to bus 90 students to FSC, then I suppose you can't imagine what it costs to bus student athletes to games over a much wider area. But perhaps you don't question that expense--after all, student sports will help these kids succeed in life so much more than improving science education will."

Amen. How much do we pay to bus kids across the county, and well out of the county, for sports. And how does this help these kids succeed.

Much had been published recently about the focus on sports, particularly football, in America as a cause for rapidly declining educational stature vis a vis other developing countries. Note the lack of focus on team sports in places like China.

Anonymous said...

"and parents who attack Fernbank Science Center rather than working with administrators to use this great resource of highly trained experts who want, more than anything else, to turn on your kids to the fun of science. "

Parents, we must work with the higher ups in Central Office to utlize the tremendous resource and expertise at FSC. The problem is that no one in CO knows one thing about science or science education (even the science coordinator) and they don't tap into the expertise at FSC. Instead, all decisions about science ed and curriculum are made by Beasley and his team.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:52
"...they don't tap into the expertise at FSC. Instead, all decisions about science ed and curriculum are made by Beasley and his team. '

One of the major problems with science instruction is too many students per science classroom. This makes it unsafe to do labs (see the NSTA standards for lab safety) and exploratory labs are at the heart of science teaching. In addition, regular education science instructors teaching daily science lessons is critical to students mastering the content - not one and two shot science experiences. Lastly, the DeKalb County classrooms are lacking in up-to-date science equipment and supplies. The $7,000,000 annually DeKalb spends for FSC would go a long way towards providing our students daily science instruction, increase science classroom lab safety, and and ensure our science teachers do not have to pay for science equipment and supplies out of their own pockets. If there is anything Dr. Beasley is missing, it is evaluating the expenditure of science instruction dollars in DCSS and looking for the most efficacious way for the most students to master science concepts.

FSC needs to be looking at pursuing a merger with the Fernbank Science Museum or obtaining alternative funding.

Science educational dollars are not drained from the regular education classrooms in the other metro systems in this manner. This should not even be a controversy. All programs outside the regular education classroom should be scrutinized in this way. DCSS has added and added program after program and department after department with the results being more dollars are drained every year from the regular education classroom. We're paying for this with decreased student achievement.

Anonymous said...

Very gently, DCSS has some of the lowest science scores in the metro area. No other system has a Fernbank Science Center and yet they have higher scores?

Where is the disconnect?

Cerebration said...

Remember the discussion at a fairly recent board meeting when Don McChesney was so surprised to learn that the budget for science equipment - systemwide - was only around $50,000...

Anonymous said...

highly trained experts who want, more than anything else, to turn on your kids to the fun of science

Wish I had seen this happening in the everyday classrooms my children were in over the past 12 years in DeKalb.

Anonymous said...

I learned the other day that my son's beloved bio teachers at LHS has 32+ kids in a trailer for bio this year at LHS (and he's really a chem teacher). I stared at him with my eyes bulging.... no way to teach science in a trailer like that....gifted or otherwise.

Anonymous said...

It's easy:

Convert the Fernbank to a non-profit that is affiliated with the school system, but has freedom to fundraise, partner with Emory, GA Tech, GA State, Morehouse, etc. without the shenanigans of the Central Office and BOE, etc., etc. FSC should be a aprtner with DCSS, but the Central Office and Board of Education do not have the competency to properly run the place, and we are not getting return on investment syste-wide for $7 mil per year.

Yes, I know there are some issues with the terms of property lease, but those are manageable.

FSC could really be something under a new paradigm.

Anonymous said...

The existence of FSC is not the cause of poor science schools. If it were only that simple...

Remove FSC and then how do we fix science education? There MUST be leadership in the system by experts in science education. And "doing labs" doesn't solve everything either. My daughter has labs every week in chemistry, her class is not overcrowded, and because the teacher is mediocre, she is learning very little and is certainly not getting excited about science. I wish there was quick fix to our science woes, such as close FSC, buy more science equipment, and do more labs. Without folks in charge who understand science and know how to teach it, scores will not improve.

Anonymous said...

leadership in science... leadership in math? Anyone looking out for any 6th or 7th graders who might want to or need to take 8th grade algebra? 7th grade algebra? If they're not careful no DCSS students over the next 12-24 months will be taking algebra in middle school... everyone will take it in high school... no experets to be found anywhere....

Anonymous said...

"Without folks in charge who understand science and know how to teach it, scores will not improve."

I have known many good science teachers in DCSS that pay for equipment and supplies out of their own pockets and are overwhelmed with huge class sizes. Has it ever occurred to you that the millions FSC drains from our science program might be spent on more science teachers in the schools and more science equipment.

$7,000,000 for 28 teachers is ridiculous. Most of the employees have nothing to do with students. They have 3 exhibit designers who Not looking at this unbelievable expenditure is ruinous for science education in our system. Do anyone think any other system would divert $7,000,000 to such a proposition?

Do you really think these positions are necessary or in line with what the marketplace pays (and this is only salary - not the benefits cost)?
Support - Exhibit Designer $77,892
Support - Exhibit Designer $69,516
Support - Exhibit Designer $84,720
Support - Exhibit Designer $63,576
Support - Designer/Photographer $66,096

Anonymous said...

Correction - DCSS has 4 exhibit designers which cost us $369,630 a year in salary and benefits.

Now do you wonder why the BOE could only budget $50,000 for science equipment for all of the high schools this year (see Cere's 4:01 pm comment)? Those science teachers are having to split that $50,000 among 28,000 students while 4 Exhibit Designers at FSC cost $369,630.

Color me crazy, but this is about what's the best expenditure of science dollars.

Anonymous said...

Can someone here oversee that funds saved from the science center will got towards science education in our schools? Can we trust Morcease "Discrete math" to do that? Or Ms. "business ed" Tyson? We can blast FSC all day long but I would bet that not a cent of that money will ever be diverted to science. And simply buying equipment is not the answer. Great equipment and labs cannot make up for unspiring teachers who know remarkably little science or for complete lack of leadership on science education.

Anonymous said...

"Can someone here oversee that funds saved from the science center will got towards science education in our schools?"

You agree that FSC is not improving science scores and $369,000 a year spent on personnel who arrange the same old tired exhibits in the FSC museum is a waste of taxpayers money. We won't even address the $7,000,000 a year in expenditures of our tax dollars for this center that's stuffed with admin and support.

So you would just keep the FSC "jobs program" alive since we have money to burn? Not an acceptable answer.

Anonymous said...

@ 9:44 PM, why didn't you apply your theory to the redistricting? Why didn't you go to bat for Medlock or the other schools and ask "how can we be sure that the savings realized from redistricting will go to the classrooms?" Why didn't you care so much then? If you are a science teacher, why don't you teach a regular classroom? For that matter, why don't any of the Fernbank teachers take on a regular classroom? Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

I feel my kids have benefitted greatly from FSC. Yes, I have had to transport them across the county after school for courses and weekend field trips but I was very glad the resource and fabulous teachers were available. I am also grateful for the programs FSC teachers brought to their schools. Until we know that money saved from FSC will go to science instruction, or at the very least to instruction, in general, and not sucked into the black hole of the Central OFfice, I cannot support closing it. Show us a BOE approved plan, in writing, for use of the funds for improved science education and for placement of the FSC teachers in classrooms, and only then should we consider closing the science center.

Anonymous said...

How much DOES DCSS spend on busing athletic teams across the county, and across the state, for that matter? Can we see that figure? How well do most of those kids perform in school?

Anonymous said...

Again. You're not ok with closing Fernbank because you can't be sure the saved money will be spent on students but you're perfectly ok with closing schools with hundreds of students in them and not worried at all about how that saved money will be spent.

Just checking

Anonymous said...

I am not ok with closing FSC until we see a workable, comprehensive, and funded plan for improvement of science education for our students. While we are at it, let's see this for math, as well.

Anonymous said...

"Until we know that money saved from FSC will go to science instruction, or at the very least to instruction, in general, and not sucked into the black hole of the Central OFfice, I cannot support closing it. '

I'd be happy with the money going to reduce the budget. That's an irrational statement. I don't think FSC is all that endangered though because the Fernbank community wants FSC to be there. Didn't we see how easy it was to keep redistricting at bay?

Kim Gokce said...

FSC Instructor: "after all, student sports will help these kids succeed in life so much more than improving science education will"

Truculent. Thank you. I needed that ... too funny!

So, therein lies our solution - all sports teams must be transported to FSC prior to at least two games per season for instruction. It is perfect!

Anonymous said...

To the person with the fallacious logic,
STT does not cost $7,000,000
STT relies on equipment at Fernbank that individual school houses can not affordincluding the planetarium, electron microsopes,one of the largest telescops on the east coast, a radiotelescopes, Seismic reporting station, greenhouses, etc-not to mention the proximity of a large and unique urban forest, a unique partnership with NASA education, and trained scientists who lead students in actual scientific research.
In any case trying to argue the value of one or two of many programs provided by Fernbank and tying it toa the total Fernbank budget is indeed a logical fallacy and perhaps you should read "Nonsense: A Handbook of Logical Fallacies" by Gula. It's only 174 pages.

Anonymous said...

Just to give an opposite view-my kids were inpsired by Fernbank and I personally think seven million is too little to spend on it. I would prefer to keep it as part of the school sytem so it did not compete with or undercut the Natural History Museum for donations and admissions revenue.

Anonymous said...

@ 11:38

No one said STT cost $7,000,000. $7,000,000 is what Fernbank Science Center costs.

STT serves 90 students a semester while DCSS has 96,000+ students. I agree with you that this is a terrific program that costs an enormous amount for a few students. Unfortunately for the regular education student in our regular education schools, this is all too common in DCSS.

Let's look at the expensive components that "STT relies on" (in your own words)
1. A "planetarium"
2. Electron microsopes",
3. "One of the largest telescops on the east coast"
4. "Radiotelescopes"
5. "Seismic reporting station"
6. "Greenhouses, etc."
7. The proximity of a large and unique urban forest" (which taxpayers pay an enormous amount of money for landscaping and gardening - my words)
8. "Trained scientists who lead students in actual scientific research"

You seem to feel that the STT program could not be run without the existence of this very expensive science center.

Mastery of science content can ONLY come with DAILY science instruction - not with 2 or 3 shot exciting science experiences.

$7,000,000 a year for 28 science teachers is just not sustainable when we have such low mastery of science content by our 96,000+ students.

Are you comfortable that the entire high school equipment and supplies budget was $50,000 while FSC cost us $7,000,000 (see Cere's 4:01 pm post)? Are you satisfied with the fact that science classes are hitting the mark of 35 students per class effectively eliminating laboratory experiences for students? Are you okay with the fact that most of our high school science teachers are spending money out of their own pockets to buy equipment and supplies for their students?

These are not fallacious statements. Take a look at the facts about science education in DCSS. If you need weblinks to the DCSS and state websites with these facts and figures, I'm happy to provide them.

We should not be funding "special science programs" until we can meet the basics of science education for ALL students in our county. We should not be closing neighborhood schools that actually collect money from the state for education while spending millions on a facility that has no funding from the state.

Our regular education science teachers are responsible for our students' achievement in science. Why don't we ask them if they would rather have FSC consume $7,000,000 or have that money spent on decreasing class sizes and cutting edge science equipment and supplies being furnished for all students in DCSS? Why not ask the personnel who are the science education experts? Who not ask the personnel who are totally responsible for student progress? We are asking them to ensure all of our students master science concepts - why are we not asking them what they need to do this?

Anonymous said...

You really need to read that book

Anonymous said...

Yes I am not only comfortable I am enthusiastic about Fernbank Science Center. STT could not be taught without the expensive stuff and STT isn't one shot. Many of the Fernbank offerings are not one shot and the previous post is ight-you logic needs remediation

Anonymous said...

@ 4:41 pm

I didn't say STT was a one shot deal. I said it is an expensive program that serves very few students. The one and two shot deals I referred to are what most students who come to FSC receive. How many students out of the 96,000+ can be served with DAILY science instruction by the 28 FSC teachers?

Who are you that you are comfortable with the state of science education for DCSS students considering we have some of the lowest science achievement in the state?

I'm a retired teacher who among many assignments in my career taught 6th and 7th grade science. I know how important it is for the average student to have small classes with science labs and to have supplies and equipment to teach science concepts. I along with most science teachers spent a lot of money out of my own pocket for science supplies and equipment.


You may not care about every child in DCSS having high quality science instruction every day, but I can assure you regular education science teachers do and I hope their parents do as well.

Anonymous said...

Part of yuor bad logic is in thinking it is either or. Why not have a school system that has high quality science instruction in every classroom and a premiere science center? Of course, there is a nationwide shortage of science teachers and many elementary teachers are not science attentive and don't fell comfortable teaching it. Likewise the testing mandates until now have focused on reading and math and science and social studies get short shrift as a result. AYP is just now beginning to take science into account (which will probably negatively impact social studies even more). Reading and math are the gateways to learning and without them no meaningful science or social studies learning can take place-but we do not have the balance right. After 40 years in education I have seen the best and the worst. Nothing makes a difference like a good teacher in the classroom and there is nothing like the quality of Fernbank. I want them both.

Anonymous said...

I am very impressed that throughout this thread not one person said anything about the Fernbank Elementary School kids using the FSC as their "playground" .... very impressive. I figured for sure that tired old fantasy would be written at least once :-)

Anonymous said...

I used to teach at Fernbank Elementary and we never took any more trips there than other schools. However, the weekend and summer programs are very accessible, and that community really utilizes the STT program to the hilt.

IMHO the Fernbank Community fights for that nice piece of greenspace because it is a lovely addition to their community, it is prestigious to say you have a Science Center in the middle of your community, and the after hours and STT programs are convenient and a great deal for their kids.

Inefficient for the millions spent on it - yes.

Ineffective for the thousands of ordinary students who are being taught science content - yes.

Will the Fernbank Community let it be changed - no. They like things just the way they are.

Anonymous said...

@ 10:01 am
"Nothing makes a difference like a good teacher in the classroom and there is nothing like the quality of Fernbank. I want them both."

Well, you're not going to get them both in Dekalb. You're going to get $7,000,000 spent on the 28 teachers in FSC and $50,000 spent on equipment and supplies for the 27,000+ high school students in the schools. You know this as does everyone else. This is the reality of the situation.

Anna said...

Our kids and many of their friends have made great use of the Fernbank Science Center programs (Advanced Studies class, Robotics Team, help with science fair projects, SEMA camps, Science Olympiad, etc) and we live no where near the Fernbank community. Many people who are not members of the Fernbank community value the offerings at the science center and take advantage of them. I also know that the teachers at our high school rely on the science center for pre-designed experiment kita and consulting and regularly schedule FSC teacher to give super programs in their classrooms.

Anonymous said...

@ Anna
"I also know that the teachers at our high school rely on the science center for pre-designed experiment kita'"

Glad to hear that since so little money is allocated for the science classrooms in the way of equipment and supplies.