You are invited: The Next Generation of Earth System Education


The Program on America and the Global Economy and the Global Sustainability and Resilience Program Present:

The Next Generation of Earth System Education

Monday, April 22, 2013

3:00 – 5:00 p.m.

5th Floor Conference Room, Woodrow Wilson Center


John D. Moore, Albert Einstein Distinguished Education Fellow Emeritus, Director for Geoscience STEM Education, Palmyra Cove Nature Park and Environmental Discovery Center

Marcia Barton, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow, NSF, Directorate for Geosciences

Peter Dorofy, NESTA Eastern Regional Director, American Meteorological Society K-12 Distinguished Educator

Vicky Gorman, AMS DataStreme Atmosphere Resource Teacher, GLOBE Program

Kevin Simmons, Albert Einstein Distinguished Education Fellow Emeritus, Senior Policy Analyst, EDJ Associates Inc., Industrial Innovation and Partnerships Division Engineering Directorate, NSF

Jin Kang, Assistant Professor, Aerospace Engineering, U.S. Naval Academy


Kent Hughes, Director, Program on America and the Global Economy

Celebrate Earth Day as a select panel of GeoSTEM Master Teachers discuss how teacher-leaders have come together to put policy into practice.  GeoSTEM is an ongoing educational endeavor to engage teachers and students in an innovative study of Planet Earth using state-of-the-art technologies and educational resources. Through programs such as the American Meteorological Society’s DataStreme Project, the GLOBE Program, and others, teachers are enhancing content knowledge, developing projects, and collaborating in projects that utilize real time and remote sensing data, promote 21st Century Workforce Development Skills, involve the local community and contribute to building the next generation of geoscientists.

Visit The Program on America and the Global Economy website for more information and to RSVP or send an email (acceptances only) to

The Wilson Center is located in the Ronald Reagan Building at 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. (Federal Triangle Metro stop on the Blue/ Orange Line) For a map and directions see:  Please bring a photo ID and arrive 15 minutes ahead to allow time for the security checkpoint. 


Graduation Rates: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

graduationOne of the main goals President Barack Obama laid out during his first term was to return America to its previously held position as the country with the highest number of college graduates per capita by 2020. This American Graduation Initiative (AGI) requires increasing the percentage of college graduates in the US workforce by 50% by the end of the decade. In order for the AGI to be accomplished, the number of college graduates would have to increase by an annual 16% every year from 2010-2020. However, the problem in reaching this goal may be rooted in low graduation rates, rather than low enrollment numbers.

America2020 is a private sector approach to the same problem, focusing specifically on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) graduates. Their plan is to encourage STEM degree completion by committing industry professionals to volunteer their time mentoring and teaching students in these fields. There will be an estimated 10 million STEM job openings by the year 2020, and OECD data reports that US students tend to have a low interest in science. This approach has already seen significant improvements in graduation rates with the schools involved and those students who have participated in the program are far better prepared for college.  Citizen Schools, one of the major forces behind the America2020 initiative, along with representatives from the White House and several big-name companies recently convened here at the Wilson Center to discuss details of its implementation and how they could be involved.

The American Dream 2.0 is an initiative by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that, “offers a comprehensive framework for how the hundreds of billions invested in the financial aid system can increase college access, affordability, and completion”. According to the Foundation’s findings, 46% of students enrolled in higher education institutions fail to graduate within six years. This rate increases to 63% for African Americans and 57% for Hispanics. In addition, total annual borrowing for college has more than doubled in the past ten years, as tuition rises faster than family income or inflation. These statistics are worrying, because those who borrow money for school but end up dropping-out without earning a degree have higher unemployment rates than those who graduate.

Good news comes from high school completion rates, which reached a record high in 2010 at 78.6%. While this is certainly heartening, fewer than half of those in the class of 2012 were ‘college ready’ as determined by the College Board last fall. In order to meet the challenges of President Obama’s AGI, education policymakers need to focus not only on college enrollment rates, but also on access, affordability, completion rates, and high school rigor. Although in the current fiscal climate, large scale investments in education may be harder and harder to implement, the effects of education investment on the productivity and success of our nation’s young people are immeasurably important.

By: Ben Copper

Sources: Huffington Post, PR Newswire, White House records,,

Photo Credit: flickr user: Smithsonian Institution

STEM Education: a Federal Priority for the New Year

STEMSTEM education is a priority for the Obama Administration in the coming years, the White House announced on Monday, December 24th. According to the official statement, this latest initiative seeks to increase the current amount of undergraduate students receiving STEM degrees by 34% before 2020. This number is equivalent to about 1 million additional STEM graduates.

The announcement cited the desire of the US to “maintain its global preeminence” in the fields of STEM- science, technology, engineering, and math- as the motivation for the programs prioritization. America’s competitiveness is on the decline, as discussed by PAGE earlier this year. Encouraging a wider community of educated workers in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math is vital to filling the needs of the nation.

In order to achieve this objective, the “Federal Government will work with education partners to improve the quality of STEM education at all levels”. There are no further details as to the specific strategies the government seeks to employ, or the funding this initiative will take. Currently, federal spending on STEM is primarily funded through the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, and the Health and Human Services Department and totals approximately $3.4 billion annually.

During his first term President Obama has launched other STEM initiatives, such as Educate to Innovate, which may be coordinated under this over-arching goal.

Posted by: Sophia Higgins

Sources: the White HouseEducate to InnovateSTEM Reports

Photo Credit: Get back to work!! @ photostream courtesy of Flickr user Robotkiss

Don’t let U.S. science and technology go off the “cliff” — ACS

The M in STEM

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education is a hot topic when discussing  K-12 education reform, but it seems as though some of the categories are getting more attention than others. Science and Technology are especially popular; the White House Science Fair and First Robotics reward innovation in science fields which often involve invention and independent research by students.  However, the excitement over STEM education hasn’t been as effective at popularizing the final category: math. An article by Reuters addressed this issue, and what people, private companies and internet learning sites are doing to combat the “uncoolness” of math.  “America has a cultural problem with math. It’s the subject, more than any other, that we as a country love to hate,” said Glen Whitney, a mathematician who develops algorithms for hedge funds. Whitney has since raised $22 million to build a Museum of Mathematics in New York City, due to open this fall.

The internet has also become proponents of math education. Khan Academy has hundreds of math related videos that cover topics from arithmetic to differential equations. DimensionU and MIT have taken a different route, by encouraging kids to play math games online, they become eligible to win prizes such as a tablet computer or a scholarship.

These recent developments in math education come in response to the lackluster rankings of U.S. high school students in math. While Americans do fairly well in elementary and middle school math, they begin to score below students from countries such as Slovenia and Iceland by age 15. Additionally, many high schools in the United States don’t offer advanced math, so there are fewer opportunities for students to excel.  Math teachers today blame the traditional approach to teaching math: classes aren’t creative enough; they aren’t fun. “It’s as if you took a little kid who really liked music and wanted piano lessons and said, ‘We’re going to have you practice scales and chords for the next 15 years, and then and only then will we teach you music,'” said Kathy Morris, an education professor at Sonoma State University in California.

Initiatives are underway in a few states for a common core curriculum that emphasizes reasoning and puzzle-solving math skills; initiatives that are gaining momentum from major corporations and philanthropies like Google and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Partnerships like these are a key to success: they have pledged to raise $24 million in order to recruit and train 100,000 new math and science teachers in the next ten years.

Posted by: Devon Thorsell

Sources: Reuters, DimensionU, Khan Academy

Photo credit: Calculator and notebook courtesy of flickr user THEMACGIRL*

Some groups go underrepresented in STEM education and jobs

We all know how important it is to get an early, strong start in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Unfortunately for some sectors of the population, it is much more difficult to excel in STEM fields because they fall into “underrepresented” groups. For example, women, Latinos, and Africa Americans have fewer STEM education opportunities and are much less often employed in STEM fields.

The Level Playing Field Institute recently published a report entitled Dissecting the Data 2012: Examining STEM Opportunities and Outcomes for Underrepresented Students in California which looks at the progress in STEM of African-Americans and Latinos in the California school systems. The report found that African Americans demonstrate consistently lower proficiency rates in math and science in comparison with their Asian and White peers. Additionally, there are far fewer African-American and Latino students enrolled in AP courses, especially in science and math. The report highlights five recommendations for improving the preparation of underrepresented student for success in STEM field.

  1. Increase training and professional development opportunities for teachers in science and math
  2. Expand programs that develop early interest in STEM among underrepresented groups
  3. Increase access to rigorous and AP courses, especially in math and science
  4. Expand STEM acceleration and pre-college programs
  5. Expand higher education programs that recruit and retain students of color in STEM

A Department of Commerce report released in September 2011 noted that 74 percent of STEM workers are male, 6 percent are Hispanic, 6 percent are African-American, and 14 are Asian-American. Clearly the United States needs to improve its recruitment and training of attracting minorities and women to STEM fields, which STEM workers make 25 more than other fields and only have a 5.5 percent unemployment rate.

Posted by: Devon Thorsell

Sources: The Level Playing Field Institute, Economics and Statistics Administration, Triangle Coalition for Science and Technology Education

Photo credit: 21st Century Classroom courtesy of flickr user Mike @ NW Lens

The Coolest Thing You’ve Heard in a While…

In 2011, Google introduced its first ever science fair that challenged students ages 13-18 to answer the big questions they had about science, life, and how the world works.  Of course, many people have questions, but Google sought out the most curious minds from across the globe that went a step further and actually got answers.  After a long and grueling selection process, three winners were chosen in each of three age groups (13-14, 15-16, 17-18).  Notably and highly encouraging, all three were young women – a gender known for its general underrepresentation in the sciences.

In the 13-14 age group, Lauren Hodge studied the effects of marinades on potentially harmful carcinogens in grilled chicken.  As her prize, she received a $25,000 scholarship and an internship at LEGO.  In the 15-16 age group, Naomi Shah won for her study that showed how changes to indoor environments could improve the lives of asthma patients.  For her efforts, she was also awarded a $25,000 scholarship and a Google internship.  Finally, in the 17-18 age group, Shree Bose wowed the judges with her discovery of a way to improve cancer treatment for patients that have built up resistance to specific chemotherapy drugs.  She was awarded a $50,000 scholarship and an internship with CERN, the world-renowned Geneva-based laboratory that is the leader in particle physics and nuclear research.  The judges were impressed by the girls’  “intellectual curiosity, their tenaciousness and their ambition to use science to find solutions to big problems.” They recently met with President Obama  and also spoke at the TED Women conference in Los Angeles.

In other youth science news – that will also make readers feel quite inadequate – 17-year-old Taylor Wilson recently gave his own brief TED Talk about his short career as a…nuclear physicist? Yes, at the ripe age of 14 he built a nuclear fusion reactor in his garage, a technology he believes will be the future of energy. He has also developed special safety detectors for a few hundred dollars – which normally cost the Department of Homeland Security a few hundred thousand dollars.  Taylor has even found ways to develop medical isotopes at small scale.  He says, “I started out with a dream to make a star in a jar, and I ended up…making things that I think can change the world.”

Much of the debate surrounding science and technology education in the United States is resoundingly negative. Our test scores lag, we produce fewer bachelors and advanced degrees in the sciences, fewer children have a passion for science.  All this, many predict, will lead to America’s innovative decline; we will no longer be able to compete in the area that made our economy so strong.  But seeing competitions like those of Google or First Robotics, the passion shown by those three young women, and the curiosity of Taylor should give pause to those naysayers.  These young people are also evidence of how American institutions like equal opportunity and individual freedom foster what remains the best environment for innovation and creativity the world has ever seen.  They will be the ones to invent the future and are a source of hope and inspiration for America’s competitive future.  Like TED says, these are certainly ideas worth spreading.

Posted by Brian Gowen

Sources: Google, TED, The New York Times, Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program

Photo credit Fayette County Science Fair courtesy of flickr user DrBacchus