As the new semester is getting underway, the New York Times asked a bunch of scientists and students what they would advocate to improve science education. There are many interesting perspectives, but I especially like this comment from Elizabeth Blackburn:
I think that the thing science educators have to do is teach one important lesson: that science requires immersion. A lot of teaching is about setting up these little projects. But real science happens when you're really immersed in a question.
Also, this paragraph from Salman Khan resonated with me:
Despite the STEM subjects' being about new ways of thinking and creating new things, many students dont perceive them as creative. And that's because, to a large degree, the type of filters we have for these subjects are actually filtering out our most creative people. If I had one wish in this area, it would be to see that creativity and invention became the central focus of STEM courses and that the traditional skills be viewed as what they are: tools to empower creativity.
My kids have had some excellent teachers that engage them in original data collection and creative thinking about scientific problems, But they are real exceptions to the rule. And very few scientists are good at making undergraduate-scale projects that allow open-ended results. There are loads of good questions out there, and if we're going to publish millions of scientific papers every year, why don't more of them serve an educational purpose?