The executive director of the Exploratorium since May 2006 served on the National Science Foundation Education and Human Resources Directorate Advisory Committee. Bartels, who has a Ph.D. in education administration and policy analysis from Stanford University, testified for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, most recently before the full House Science Committee on K-12 Science and Math Education.
Is the Exploratorium a venue for education or entertainment? It’s a leading research lab of learning. We can try lots of things that universities and schools can’t. The most fun and the most powerful place I’ve ever worked for has been the Exploratorium.
How is the Exploratorium involved in improving education? We train more teachers in science than just about any institution in the Bay Area. We also work with schools, after-school providers, other museums and media.
What do you think about current science education in schools? There is more attention to it, but it hasn’t yet changedmuch in schools. It’s actually taught less now because everything is about math and reading. I feel as sorry for history and art as I do for science.
Is it an issue of not enough funding? No. I think that we don’t emphasize science much on the elementary-school level. We want to resuscitate science education in elementary schools when kids are most interested in their physical world. By high school, we’ve convinced most students that science is only for those who want to become scientists. But as a person of the 21st century, we all have to know about science — just look at the newspapers and politics.