Lemonade, links to science literacy

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By Charlie McMillan

I came across a 7-year-old at a lemonade stand along a walking trail. He was selling the beverage — and something much more important.
His sign said “$1: Lemonade and a great science lecture.” I recognize a good deal when I see one, so I purchased a cool drink and enjoyed a talk with a young man clearly inspired. At age seven.
I spoke with the boy’s parents. Neither had a technical background and they struggled with finding new ways to nurture the boy’s passion for science. My message to them was simple: “You don’t have to know why the sky is blue to inspire him. You just have to point him in the right direction.”
In my position as director of a national security science laboratory I come across many people inspired by science, technology, engineering and mathematics — what we call STEM. As a nation, we will need more of them. Unfortunately, I am also aware of others inspired by STEM who would use that knowledge to do harm to innocent people here or abroad.
It concerns me that in the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), American eighth graders were outpaced by nine countries in science and 11 countries in math. We have improved since the TIMSS studies began in 1995, but still have work to do.

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