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What is “scientific literacy?”

It’s not just asking questions, it’s the ability to answer questions.

According to the National Academies,¹ it’s “the knowledge and understanding of scientific concepts and processes required for personal decision making, participation in civic and cultural affairs, and economic productivity.”

They explain further that “scientific literacy means that a person can ask, find, or determine answers to questions derived from curiosity about everyday experiences. It means that a person has the ability to describe, explain, and predict natural phenomena.”

We are in a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) age where people are challenged to think critically and creatively to solve problems and develop solutions. Think about how times have changed in regards to setting up new technologies such as the iRobot vacuum, a smart tv, or even your new cell phone. We no longer rely on someone coming out to help us set up technology because we are supposed to understand how to do it ourselves, or at least have the basic knowledge to do the research ourselves. This is an example of scientific literacy and how it affects our everyday lives. 

The attitudes that people develop in regards to science during the younger years of their lives shape the development of their scientific literacy as an adult. Learning science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts are vital to connecting the knowledge students learn in the classroom with skills they can use in the real world.² STEM courses and skills are the fundamental components of student opportunity, success, equity, and the future. Simply put, if you’re not getting them, you’re less likely to be successful. STEM knowledge and skills greatly benefit students as we prepare them to become scientifically literate citizens and enter the increasingly technological workforce. 

Integrating STEM education into the classroom can significantly improve the ability of students’ scientific literacy.² Students are able to better understand and communicate problems and how the process is solved when doing hands-on activities and experiments rather than pencil-and-paper activities. The level of student academic achievement will rise with the integration of STEM activities into primary and secondary education. 

Here at JASON Learning, integrating hands-on, real STEM activities into our curriculum is one of our top priorities. We believe that students should experience STEM, not just study it. Students should be aware of how their education relates to the world beyond the classroom walls (or computer screens). Although each curriculum unit features print and digital materials, hands-on activities, videos, online games, lesson plans, implementation tips, professional development, and a powerful digital platform aligned to state and national standards; we also implement project-based learning and challenges, which occur offscreen and in the community that teach students the reason why they learn and how they use their newfound knowledge, skills, and capabilities. All of our resources and projects are designed to bring real STEM into the hands of teachers, students, and parents. Students will not just abstractly understand the content, instead, the content is brought to life.

Co-written by Eleanor Smalley and Jenna Davis

References:

¹ National Science Education Standards. (1996). Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

² Kusumastuti, F. A., Rombot, O., & Ariesta, F. W. (2019). The Effect Of STEM Integration On Primary School Students’ Scientific Literacy. International Journal of Scientific & Technology Research, 8(12), 1551-1553.

Eleanor Smalley

Eleanor Smalley

President & CEO, JASON Learning