Olympic 4x400m relay silver medallist Anneisha McLaughlin-Whilby, former sprint hurdler Trishana McGowan, and former sprinter-turned-bobsledder Carrie Russell were recently present at the Walker’s Place of Safety in Richmond Park, Kingston, to give Christmas gifts to children of the home. These gifts were all donations made by athletes of MVP, Akan and Sprintec Track clubs. A cake was also donated by MVP President Bruce James on behalf of his club. Books were also handed to the children, and organiser McGowan, a former MVP athlete, says that she giving them books is more important than toys because it is a more lasting gesture, as it allows them to develop a joy for learning. A JOY “A lot of the children here do go to school, so it’s needed,” McGowan says. “It’s always a joy just to watch children enjoy gifts. Even as adults, we enjoy gifts for birthdays or even Christmas.” Russell agrees with McGowan about the lasting effect of giving books as gifts. “I’m one of them who believes in education [being a trained teacher herself]. I normally get books. “I’ve been doing this for two years now. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth, but my mom and dad ensured that every Christmas, I always had something to look forward to, and it’s a good feeling to let these kids look forward to something too. McLaughlin-Whilby says that she and McGowan have been visiting the Walker’s Place of Safety since they were university students in 2010. She says that she just wants to put smiles on the children’s faces. “Last year, when we were speaking to the owner, she said some of them (the children) aren’t visited by their parents or families, so I’m always happy to bring a little joy into their lives” Grace Allen has been managing the home for 30 years and says the gifts are much appreciated. She says they help to make watching over the children easier, as sometimes they can be quite a handful. The home, which was founded in 1972, currently has 35 children ages 3 to 17 enrolled. – R.P.
Recent test results by American students on national science exams have fueled concerns expressed by experts that the performance gap is growing between U.S. students and their global competitors. With companies hiring students from outside the United States for science or engineering jobs, the fear is that the United States will fall farther behind in the competitive global economy. Solutions vary. Some science experts have suggested developing one standard science curriculum for schools compared to each state developing their own requirements. But experts and educators agree more collaboration is needed between science and math educators and their professional counterparts in the industry. Teachers should stay connected with scientists and engineers, said Eva Graham, minority education initiatives manager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Hands-on experiments common in elementary schools are changed into more textbook and test-based learning in middle schools, Gilbert said. Another barrier is the debate between some science circles over what makes a scientifically literate citizen. Some advocate memorizing facts while others believe that students should display critical thinking to solve everyday problems. The work force wants all those qualities and more importantly, people who can adapt to changes in the field. School districts nationwide have formed partnerships with companies such as GlaxoSmithKline or Merck or government facilities like JPL. Parsons Corp.’s Pasadena chapter established the Future Scientists and Engineers of America, a nonprofit, to provide material and workshop training technology clubs in K-12 schools, and also hosts science competitions. Pomona Unified has a partnership with JPL’s resource center and Garvey School Districts looking to join with Caltech to provide science tutoring. To help teachers, JPL hosts workshops for teachers and through its Educator Resource Center, can critique textbooks, materials, such as a class syllabus, and suggest lab experiments that can be done in class. “We are their colleagues and we have a good understanding about what is important,” Graham said. email@example.com (626) 962-8811, Ext. 2108 “Teachers are professionals and you need to be continually be updating, or be involved in professional development,” she said. Educators say the federal No Child Left Behind legislation has limited creativity in teaching since there are requirements with pre-prescribed set of materials. Industry professionals would be good mentors to other teachers in this environment, Graham said. This allows for teachers to bring real world perspective to their classrooms and for industry professionals to see some of the obstacles teachers face and helps both sides to find interesting ways to present the subject to students, said Dean Gilbert, science consultant for the curriculum and instructional services division of the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Teachers support a stronger relationship between the classroom and the industry but they may need to seek help on their own. Many educators, including Anthony Ippolito, a chemistry teacher at Baldwin Park High School, chat regularly though message boards or blogs with other science teachers, or read science journals or articles to keep abreast of any changes. The challenge of making science fun is that students are turned off from science by the time they enter high school, Gilbert said.