Welcome to the Radiant Science Blog


“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” -Saint Exuprey

This is a quote about…. science education. I am certain that the author of “The Little Prince” was using shipbuilding as a metaphor for adventure and travel; after all, Exuprey was a pioneer of early flight. An adventurer and risk-taker, he used airplanes with little instrumentation and in fact survived several crashes (alas, except his last). He was dismissive of pilots who flew more technologically advanced airplanes and said they were “more like accountants that pilots”.

What does it have to do with education? There has been a flurry of discussion and an opening of the national discourse on public education with movies like “Waiting for Superman“. The message we are getting from the media is clear, the education system in the United States is broken. There is however, good news. For the first time in American history more women have graduated with advanced degrees than men and since 1980 the average drop out rate has decreased by about half. Even so, we have a long way to go. We still have an average drop out rate of 8 percent. By all accounts we are falling behind the rest of the world in math and science. Two recent international surveys, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) rank HS students in the United States 21st and 9th respectively in science literacy. The US is behind countries like Finland, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Canada, Estonia and Australia. Even though we have made improvements in educational outcomes over the last 30 years, our education system is lagging behind other industrialized countries like China. The concern is understandable; the pool of the next generation of technological innovators educators and entrepreneurs will be smaller. In short, the United States is setting itself up to be out-competed in the world arena of high-tech.

What is the solution? Should we make testing a priority? Should we increase class time? Start more charter schools? With limited financial resources, should we reward teachers with a successful track record financially? How can we make sure that we fully engage young students with science and technology education? These are questions with many answers depending on who you ask.

Exuprey’s quote is instructive. In addition to the myriad of policy approaches and funding solutions (the approach the ‘pilot accountants’ Exuprey vilified would propose), we have to change the way we think about teaching the sciences to young people. Learning, and yes, teaching is an adventure. Teaching students to “yearn for the vast and open sea” is the one thing that will guarantee that they continue learning long after they leave the classroom.

Why Summer STEM?

Participating in STEM programs has become increasingly popular in recent years, as more and more people recognize the value of science, technology, engineering, and math education. In addition to providing students with a deeper understanding of these critical fields, research suggests that participating in STEM programs can also have a positive impact on academic performance across a range of subjects.

One reason for this is that STEM education emphasizes problem-solving skills and critical thinking, which are essential for success in all areas of academics. By engaging in hands-on activities that challenge them to solve complex problems, students develop the ability to think creatively and apply logical reasoning to real-world situations. This skill set can then be applied to other subjects, helping students perform better in areas such as reading, writing, and social studies.

In addition, STEM education often incorporates technology and other digital tools that are increasingly prevalent in today’s world. By using these tools in a structured educational setting, students become more comfortable with technology and develop the digital literacy skills needed for success in the 21st century workforce.

Moreover, participating in STEM programs can help boost student engagement and interest in school. Students who are passionate about science, technology, engineering, and math are more likely to stay motivated and engaged in their studies, leading to improved attendance and higher academic achievement. In fact, a study by the National Science Foundation found that students who participated in STEM programs were more likely to pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM fields.

One effective way to nurture and develop students’ curiosity in STEM is through summer STEM programs. These programs offer a unique opportunity for students to explore their interests and passions in a supportive, hands-on environment. Students can participate in activities such as building robots, conducting experiments, and learning about new technologies, all while developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Summer STEM programs also provide students with the opportunity to work with and learn from STEM professionals and experts. By interacting with professionals in these fields, students gain insights into the real-world applications of STEM concepts and are inspired to pursue their interests further.

At Radiance Science Education, we know that participating in STEM programs can have a significant positive impact on academic performance for children in grade school and middle school. Through the development of problem-solving skills, digital literacy, and student engagement, STEM education can provide students with a strong foundation for success in all areas of academics. Summer STEM programs offer a unique opportunity to nurture and develop students’ curiosity in these critical fields, providing them with the skills and inspiration they need to succeed in the 21st century.


cu·ri·os·i·ty:  a strong desire to know or learn something.

Curiosity is characterized by a sense of wonder, a drive to understand the world around us, and an openness to new ideas and perspectives. Curiosity is a natural human trait that is essential for learning, growth, and personal development, and it is often associated with creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. The field of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) is growing rapidly, and it is no secret that the future will rely heavily on advancements made in these fields. In order to foster success in STEM, it is crucial to instill a sense of curiosity in students from an early age. Curiosity is the driving force that propels students to seek answers to their questions and to explore new ideas.

Curiosity is an essential component of STEM education because it allows students to engage more deeply with the material they are learning. Instead of simply accepting information at face value, students are encouraged to ask questions and to probe for deeper understanding. This not only improves their comprehension but also encourages critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

So, what are some ways that  we can foster and develop curiosity in students, particularly in the STEM field? Here are some strategies:

  • Encourage Exploration: Encourage students to explore their interests and passions. This can be accomplished through hands-on activities, experiments, and group projects.
  • Provide Opportunities: Provide students with opportunities to learn beyond the classroom. Field trips, guest speakers, and internships are all excellent ways to expose students to real-world applications of STEM.
  • Emphasize Failure: Failure is often seen as a negative, but in the STEM field, it is a necessary part of the learning process. Encourage students to view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow.
  • Participate in Summer Programs: Summer STEM programs provide students with the opportunity to dive deeper into the STEM field, explore new topics, and learn from experienced professionals in a fun and engaging environment.

Summer STEM programs are particularly effective in nurturing curiosity in students. These programs allow students to take a deep dive into the world of STEM, and often offer hands-on learning experiences that are not possible in a traditional classroom setting. Additionally, summer programs are designed to be fun and engaging, which helps to keep students motivated and excited about learning.

The benefits of summer STEM programs are not just limited to fostering curiosity in students. These programs also provide opportunities for students to network with other like-minded individuals, build relationships with STEM professionals, and gain exposure to potential career paths in the STEM field.

In terms of cost, summer STEM programs can vary widely in price depending on the program and location. However, many programs offer scholarships and financial assistance to ensure that all students have the opportunity to participate.

Curiosity is a crucial component of success in STEM education. By nurturing and developing curiosity in students through exploration, failure, and summer STEM programs, we can help create a new generation of curious, creative, and innovative STEM professionals.

Big Ideas Fest 2011


“Instructions for living a life.
Pay attention.
Be astonished.
Tell about it.”
―Mary Oliver (quoted by Bill Ayers in his talk at Big Ideas Fest 2011)

Big Ideas Fest 2011

The Big Ideas Fest is like no other conference that I have attended. What is the Big Ideas Fest? As stated on the website:

“The annual Big Ideas Fest is an extraordinary immersion into collaboration and design that focuses on transformational change in K-20 education. Creative doers and thinkers from diverse levels of education gather to learn from and share with each other… Big Ideas Fest believes answers and innovation are all around us. The event gathers top minds to share their work and ideas in an environment that encourages risk-taking and overall imagining of the impossible.”

Big Ideas Fest 2011 was all of this and more.

The event was sponsored by the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME), a non-profit research institute that is “dedicated to the study, spread, and strategic use of knowledge management in education”. Among ISKME’s projects is one close to Radiant Science Learning’s heart: OER commons. OER commons is a leader in providing accessible educational content. Their mission is to make educational resources freely available. The goal of making these resources freely available is to reduce the barriers to access to quality educational materials and to open these materials to editing, altering, and improving through “crowd-sourcing”. OER Commons is an excellent repository of educational resources, such as syllabi, labs, exams, that are free to use and openly licensed.

The Speakers

Sprinkled throughout the conference were a series of “Rapid Fire” talks on topics ranging from personalized education (Brewster Kahle) to prisoner education (Jody Lewen) to STEAM education.

Among the highlights of the conference were talks given by Bill Ayers (University of Illinois at Chicago) who encouraged us to “pay attention, be astonished and tell about it”; Gerald Richards (826 National) who discussed his company’s innovative tutoring centers located around the country; Neeru Khosla (CK-12 Foundation) who discussed her organization’s published open source textbooks; and AnnMarie Polsenberg Thomas (University of St Thomas) who introduced us to squishy circuits – circuits using homemade conductive dough as a didactic tool. Other notable speakers included Enrique Gabriel Legaspi, who gave an inspiring and insightful talk on mindful learning through creation, curation and sharing; Martha Kanter (U.S. Department of Education); Barbara Chow (The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation) and Mark Milliron (Western Governors University Texas).

Since a brief summary of all the excellent conference talks is not possible here, I encourage you to look at the complete list of the speakers, available HERE.

The Design Challenge

If you think this was a sit-back, look-around, and-listen-to-good talks conference, think again! This was a roll-up-your-sleeves and get-to-work conference. In fact, one of the conference’s most interesting and unique features was that it engaged its participants, all innovators in their own right, to innovate… and innovate together! The conference organizers divided the conference participants into nine teams, each of which had to develop a prototype addressing a “cumbersome issue in education.” The goal of the exercise was to prepare us for the process of researching, designing, prototyping and scaling a ‘Big Idea’. To the credit of the Big Ideas Fest organizers, this goal was largely achieved. Needless to say, this exercise was an inspiring, sometimes frustrating, and altogether valuable learning experience. Thanks again to Rich Cox, my team’s facilitator, for being “Made of Awesome”.

Must Mention

Finally, I must mention Nilaja Sun’s performance of No Child…a semi-autobiographical, one woman play set in in a school in The Bronx, in which she switches character from moment to moment in what can only be described as a masterful performance. It was a brilliant production that should not be missed!

Special thanks to Dr. Lisa Petrides, President, ISKME; Megan Simmons, Education Program Manager; Letha Kay Goger, Digital Librarian; Rudy Rubio, Research Assistant and all the other ISKME planners and participants. Thanks to ISKME for making it possible for Radiant Science Learning LLC to be represented at the Big Ideas Fest 2011 through the Scholarship Program.

Is the school year too short?

How much time do we spend in school? For many students, the answer is a lot. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average American student spends approximately 1,000 hours in school each year. That’s equivalent to around 180 days, assuming a typical school day of six hours.

But what happens to all that knowledge we gain during those 1,000 hours? Unfortunately, studies show that it doesn’t stick around for long. Research conducted by psychologists has shown that we forget much of what we learn within days or weeks of being taught it. This is known as the “forgetting curve,” and it highlights the importance of repetition and practice when it comes to learning.

So, what is the case for summer classes? One argument is that they can help combat the forgetting curve. By continuing to engage with material during the summer months, students can reinforce what they learned during the school year and better retain that knowledge over time. Additionally, summer classes can offer a chance for students to catch up on material they may have missed during the regular school year, or to get ahead and explore new topics of interest.

Of course, summer classes do come at a cost. Depending on the program and location, the cost of summer classes can vary widely. Private schools or specialized programs may charge several thousand dollars per course, while community college courses may be much more affordable. Some schools may also offer summer courses at no additional cost to enrolled students.

Despite the cost, there are some compelling reasons to consider summer classes. In addition to the potential benefits for retention and academic progress, summer classes can also offer a chance for students to socialize and connect with peers in a more relaxed and informal setting. For students who struggle with the traditional school year schedule or who need extra support to succeed academically, summer classes can be a valuable opportunity to get the help they need.

Overall, the decision to pursue summer classes will depend on a variety of factors, including a student’s academic goals, interests, and financial situation. With careful consideration and planning, however, summer classes can offer a valuable opportunity for students to continue learning and growing outside of the traditional school year.

“Go rocket ship! Go!”

“Go, rocket ship! Go!”

That is what my young child cheered over and over again as we watched the last space shuttle launch today. She was exuberant as she saw the Atlantis soar into the sky, unbeknownst to her, for the last time. As her enthusiasm infected me I remembered the first time I saw the shuttle Columbia launch in 1981. I remember space telescope Hubble in orbit, Pathfinder landing on Mars, Dolly being cloned, the human genome being sequenced…

What “rocket ships” will her children cheer for?

Go rocket ship, go…..