Writing skills lagging for young STEM kids

Writing is the most difficult challenge for students participating in a two-year, pilot, after-school science program being conducted in nine schools in central and north-central Ohio.

According to an interim report not one teacher in the Young Buckeye STEM Scholars Program said writing went well last year. Overall, activities for the 227 students in the program, fairly evenly divided between boys and girls, were on target. However, communication, specifically in the form of writing summaries of scientific articles or news stories of scientific discoveries, was inadequate.

"All are struggling with writing but that's no surprise to us," said Lynn Elfner, executive director of the Ohio Academy of Science, which organized the program. Elfner noted that participation was not limited to the academically strongest students. In the evaluation prepared for the Ohio General Assembly, one superintendent stressed the value of including at-risk students to create learning chances for kids who would not ordinarily get them. Learn more about the program here.

As part of the $700,000 program, which incorporates hands-on scientific inquiry, technology design, teamwork, communications, and leadership development, students are expected to read, study, and submit 36 reports on research articles and news stories of scientific discoveries over 18 months.

As far as the students are concerned, their top-two activities were working with an oozy, squishy, stretchy polymer called "glubber," which 58 percent rated tops. Activities concerning flight and space-fizzy rockets came in a close second, at 57 percent.

The schools participating in the program are Big Walnut and Buckeye Valley in Delaware County; North Union in Union County; River Valley in Marion County; Teays Valley in Pickaway County; Upper Sandusky in Wyandot County; and Colonial Hills, Brookside, and Slate Hill elementary schools in the Worthington school district in Franklin County.

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