Hailing Rhode Island's Commitment to STEM Education

We have become so accustomed to in-fighting among our elected officials that we fail to recognize some legislators are actually responding to the needs of their constituents, and supporting programs that will help their children.

That is the case with the Rhode Island Legislature, which recently committed $1 million to implement JASON Learning's STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curricula in 16 school districts across the state, reaching more than 20,000 students.

JASON Learning was created by deep ocean explorer and Titanic discoverer Dr. Robert Ballard in 1989 after he received hundreds of letters from school children who wanted to know more about him and his expeditions.

JASON is managed by Sea Research Foundation in Mystic, Conn and the National Geographic Society, in cooperation with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and NASA to introduce curricula into schools that feature hands-on science activities, live interactive events, computer-based simulations, games, social media and videos. In short, everything that would spark a child's imagination and increase her interest in STEM.

The Rhode Island Legislature views JASON Learning as a means of preparing children in the state for a future where scientific knowledge and inquiry, analytical and critical thinking, along with the ability to interpret data, will become increasingly important. JASON Learning allows a child to proceed at his own pace in this educational journey while aligning with state and national educational standards.

And, equally important, it offers valuable training to teachers, increasing their knowledge of STEM content and improving instructional strategies.

Students in the Rhode Island will also have an opportunity to participate in real-time teleconferencing with Dr. Ballard and other scientists from his ship, the E/V Nautilus, as it travels the globe finding new geological wonders, shipwrecks and fascinating marine life.

JASON Learning will also be incorporated into after-school programs, reinforcing what students learn during the day.

Research has demonstrated that the 2 million students around the country who participate in JASON Learning each year are more engaged in scientific inquiry, perform better on standardized tests and are excited to be involved with 24/7 learning.

Our schools need to change to accommodate a new breed of learner -- one who connects to the world through technology. Through its support of JASON Learning, the Rhode Island Legislature is investing in the future of the state, giving students and teachers the tools they need to understand a world where mastering STEM will make them more informed citizens.

It is a big step by a small state for a better tomorrow.