The purpose of Wow Science is to spark, cultivate, and promote children’s interest in science. We seek to attract more students to math and science, improve their performance in those subjects, increase college enrollment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields and, ultimately, prepare students for careers in STEM fields.
In the past ten years, authoritative independent research has repeatedly highlighted the declining quality of education, especially science education, in the United States.
Only 1 in 3 middle school students show proficiency in math and science. Worse, only 21% of12th graders perform at or above the “proficient” level in science. (Study—National Assessment of Educational Progress. January 2011.) Only 34 percent of first time freshmen in the United States plan to major in STEM. (University of California Los Angeles’ Higher Education Research Institute and the National Student Clearinghouse. 2009.)
“American students are lagging in math and science and trailing countries like Canada, Czech Republic and China,” the National Center for Education Statistics concluded in a 2009 report. A key impact of this problem is shortage of critical STEM professionals. This includes teachers, engineers, technicians, and healthcare workers. Wow! Science Camp® seeks to address this problem at the root by cultivating children’s interest in science.
Sponsored by Bayer and published in the report “Building a Diverse United States STEM Workforce: Perspectives on Creating Successful Business Education Partnerships” (2010), a survey of female and underrepresented minority chemists and chemical engineers identified lack of quality science and math education programs in poorer school districts and stereotypes that exist that say STEM is not for girls or minorities as top reasons that there is a limited number of women and minorities in STEM fields. The study recommends that educators should encourage and support students’ interest and passion in science, offer more hands-on science experiences, and make science exciting, interesting and fun.
Notably, nearly sixty percent of participants in the study said they wanted to be a scientist by age 11.
The National Academy of Science (NAS) published a report that identified key threats to America’s security, technical leadership, and standard of living. Titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm”, the report listed a number of significant indicators:
1. The U.S. has become a net importer of high-tech products. (We import more high-tech manufactured goods than we export.)
2. U.S. 12th graders recently performed below the international average for 21 countries in math and science.
3. Considerably more than half of undergraduates in China and Japan earn degrees in science and engineering compared to one-third in the US.
4. In 2004, China graduated 500,000 engineers, India 200,000, and America 70,000 (2006).
“Many students never make it into the STEM pipeline, because of inadequate preparation in math and science or poor teacher quality in their K-12 systems. Of the 2005 high school graduates who took the ACT test, for example, only 41 percent achieved the College Readiness Benchmark in mathematics and 26 percent achieved that benchmark in science” (ACT 2006).
“Many who are academically qualified for postsecondary studies in science and math fields at both the two- and four-year levels don’t pursue those programs. They might be dissuaded by disappointing postsecondary experiences, high tuition or demanding curricula and courses of study, relatively low salaries in STEM fields compared to other professions, or the lack of role models with whom they can identify.” (American Association of State Colleges and Universities 2005).
“There is broad consensus that the long-term key to continued U.S. competitiveness in an increasingly global economic environment is the adequacy of supply and the quality of the workforce in the STEM fields. Scientific innovation has produced roughly half of all U.S. economic growth in the last 50 years” (National Science Foundation 2004).
The STEM fields and those who work in them are critical engines of innovation and growth: according to one recent estimate, while only about five percent of the U.S. workforce is employed in STEM fields, the STEM workforce accounts for more than fifty percent of the nation’s sustained economic growth (Babco 2004).
High drop out rates in middle and secondary schools is especially reflected in low college enrollment in STEM fields. In the study titled “Closing the College Participation Gap: A National Summary”, Sandra Ruppert found that less than 40 percent of ninth grade students were likely to graduate from high school and attend college within one year (2003).
It is for all of the above reasons that Wow Science is committed to promoting children’s interest in science. As President Barak Obama put it: “Make no mistake: Our future is on the line. The nation that out-educates us today is going to out-compete us tomorrow.” (USAtoday.com January 6, 2010.)
Why a Hands-on Science Approach?
Why does Wow Science place so much emphasis on hands-on experiments and projects?
Why do you create project themes that emulate or simulate what scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians do in real life?
Why do you visit factories or do-it-yourself locations to connect learning to real life activity?
The answer is simple. Learning by “doing” has proved to be the most effective form of learning. People generally remember up to 90 percent of what they do. See the chart below for details.
Why So Much FUN and Other Activities at a Science Camp?
Our offerings are carefully designed to achieve optimal impact in influencing children’s behavior toward science and math. For instance, children want to have fun in the summer. Like most of us, they would rather play than work, unless the work itself is fun! We have purposefully associated the learning of science and math with many fun and inspiring activities. Our approach of allowing children to do a project before learning the underlying scientific concepts keeps them engaged as they remain eager to see the end product of their effort. By adding important life skills such as etiquette and money management lessons, we break the monotony of doing STEM projects all day. The thrilling field trips erase doubts about remaining in the program.