An enthusiastic article in last week's Philadelphia Inquirer reports on a visit by Bill Gates to the Science and Leadership academy, a partnership high school between the School District of Philadelphia and The Franklin Institute. During his visit, Gates listened to students present their science projects and then asked them specific questions.
"It's great to see people doing hands-on science," said Bill Gates after the presentations were over. "Science is fun."
"Hopefully, many of you will go into these fields which are so cool, so interesting," Gates said.According to the article, Gates also discussed philanthropy, how he taught computer programming to his fellow students in high school, about being an overconfident math student at Harvard, and how the SLA students should learn as much as they could about science.
Frederic Bertley, a Vice President at the Franklin Institute, was also thrilled.An alternative litmus test would be one that measures how much scientific knowledge SLA students have acquired. As I've noted in a recent post, (1) there's reason to believe that scientific knowledge acquisition should be a higher priority in k12 science education than hands-on learning, and (2) on this measure, SLA has not tested well. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's own Report Card on the Schools, which came out just two weeks ago, 59% of SLA's 11th graders weigh in at "below basic."
The museum takes the partnership with SLA very seriously, Bertley said. Watching the students - who were not prepped for the session - engage in such high-level dialogue with Gates was a thrill for him.
"I couldn't have asked for a better litmus test for the project," said Bertley. "This is why we do what we do."
Gates implored the students to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available to them for free. For example, Gates wanted a refresher course on physics, so he followed an MIT course online available for anyone to take advantage at no cost.