A new chapter for Juneau sciences

Capital City Fire & Rescue Firefighter Sean Rhea helps Floyd Dryden Middle School seventh grader Kimberly Clark operate a fire hose as part of her Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) class.

Capital City Fire & Rescue Firefighter Sean Rhea helps Floyd Dryden Middle School seventh grader Kimberly Clark operate a fire hose as part of her Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) class.

Students in the Juneau School District won’t experience a new science curriculum for at least another year, but community members are already gathering to ask the question – What’s missing?

During a meeting Thursday at the Juneau-Douglas High School, more than 40 people gathered – some teachers, others university officials and some merely concerned community members – to brainstorm with district and city leaders about what an ideal K-12 science curriculum for the 2017-18 school year might look like.

Led by JSD director of teaching and learning support Ted Wilson, the open forum included small group discussions where people created lists to describe “an ideal STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) school” or “integrated learning environment.”

Juneau Economic Development Council STEM program manager Rebecca Soza helped guide the discussion, offering her expertise as a former middle school science instructor.

“A big thing we want to see with the curriculum is integrated learning, how those things (science, technology, engineering and math) can be taught together and learned together,” Soza said.

Ideas from the audience ranged from more class work done outside to getting rid of acronyms like STEM all together that confuse community members who might otherwise take an initiative to be part of this change.

Deborah Lo, University of Alaska Southeast School of Education dean, took part in the small group discussions and suggested the focus for STEM, sciences or whatever name it goes by, needs to begin with the educators.

“It starts with teachers who have to have strong content knowledge,” Lo said. “Without that there is no integration. You can’t teach something you don’t know well.”

Wilson said the meeting and discussion were only step one of a longer process and down the line, after a curriculum is developed by a not-yet-formed committee and approved, staff development will surely follow.

First more input from local leaders regarding available resources to improve the schools is needed, Wilson said. He called Thursday’s meeting a surprising show of support, with several Juneau Board of Education members and the UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield in attendance, but more is still needed.

To gather more input from educators and business leaders in the science field, the district site will have surveys sometime in mid-January after Wilson and Soza assess from community feedback what is deemed missing in the schools.

Surveys for teachers include questions about preparedness for teaching science and time allotted each day for the subject. Community leaders will be asked about barriers to providing resources and untapped opportunities.

“Changes in the district will only work if there is a strong group of people behind it,” Soza said, adding that right now all the resources might not be in place, but a “grass roots” effort, like the one seen in Thursday’s community meeting, is a place to start.

The next planned community-wide curriculum discussion is set for Feb. 16. For more information, or to contribute to the science curriculum development with ideas on community involvement or teacher development, contact Wilson at 523-1723 or ted.wilson@juneauschools.org.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Jan. 22

This photo shows pills police say were seized after a suspicious package was searched. (Juneau Police Department)
Police: 1,000 fentanyl pills, 86 grams of meth seized

Juneau man arrested on felony charges.

Library Director Dave Berry and Advisory Board Chair Kate Finn participate in Library Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday Jan. 17, 2023, at Homer City Hall, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Emilie Springer/Homer News)
Homer Library Advisory Board upholds decision to retain LGBTQ+ books

A citizen’s group last year submitted a petition asking that the books be removed from the children’s section

Courtesy Photo / Juneau Police Department 
This photo shows Woodrow Farrell Eagleman who police say after going missing on Jan. 11 was seen leaving town on Jan. 12 via airport surveillance.
Police: Man reported missing took plane out of town

A Juneau man recently reported as missing was found leaving town on… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Jan. 26

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Juneau-based actor Xáalnook Erin Tripp was recently named one of the 2023 Artists in Business Leadership Fellows for First Peoples Fund program. Tripp said she intends to use to program’s grant funding to set up a professional recording studio in Juneau for her voice acting career and to share with other artists in the community. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
First Peoples Fund to help Juneau actor create recording studio for voice acting

Xáalnook Erin Tripp among artists with Southeast ties to earn the award.

Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire 
Katie Botz, a Juneau school bus driver honored by Gov. Mike Dunelavy for her advocacy on behalf of abuse victims, stands to applause during his recognition of her during the State of the State speech Monday night at the Alaska State Capitol.
‘A victory for all of us’: Juneau woman recognized among Resilient Alaskans for her advocacy

Katie Botz’s presence — and brief absence — as a victims advocate led to a big win and governor’s honor.

Arnold Vosloo as Colonel Bach addresses US soldiers in latest film, “Condor’s Nest” in theaters and digital release on Friday. (Courtesy Photo / PMKBNC)
‘Popcorn thriller’ set in South America features actor from Alaska

“Condor’s Nest” will be available on demand Friday.

Jim Cockrell, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety, speaks in Wasilla at a May 3, 2022, news conference. Cockrell has ordered an investigation after troopers mistakenly took a school principal into custody for a mental health exam. (Photo by Yereth Rosen / Alaska Beacon)
Troopers, misled by false court order, detained principal for mental health check

State troopers mistakenly took Alaska’s 2022 Principal of the Year into custody…

Most Read