By John Walsh ’01
The world of science education is in the midst of a major renovation, and Shippensburg University’s Dr. Christine Royce is one of the leaders of this initiative. Royce, who has been a professor at Ship since 2002, was selected as president of the National Science Teachers Association for the next three years.
“The theme for my presidency with NSTA will be associated with being an advocate for science education, and ultimately that includes STEM education,” Royce said.
“I will be involved with the promotion of STEM into the integration of content areas with science educators, and collaboration with technology, all while utilizing engineering and mathematics.”
STEM—or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics—is a hands-on, collaborative, problem-solving approach in education. “We have many areas where STEM is already being incorporated at Shippensburg University,” Royce said.
She believes this interdisciplinary work will enhance students’ learning and teaching abilities. The students’ varied backgrounds lead to robust conversations that promote STEM. “The business students are bringing perspective where STEM fits into the business world while the science and mathematics students are bringing perspective on what is coming content-wise and what is found in the laboratories.”
Royce first became interested in science at an early age. She fell in love with nature while in Girl Scouts and became infatuated with earth and space science in school.
“Science was the natural fit, because I have always been interested,” she said.
She brought that curiosity and fascination to her classes, sparking a love of the subject matter in her students.
Royce believes her passion and new appointment with NSTA will greatly impact Ship students now and in the future. “At Shippensburg, I have the opportunity to bring more experiences I will have while visiting different groups across the United States back to the students at our university. Our students will get a broader view of what other schools are doing rather than just having a localized view. This will cause Ship students to have the opportunity to hear and understand different initiatives across the United States.”
Royce knows this will help Ship students connect with their own students on a higher level. “Anytime we can involve students in expanding their knowledge and interact and engage in content-area subjects with STEM, I think that is a good thing.”
She already has witnessed the implementation and use of the STEM program within public education.
“I think with the public school side of it, we need to not focus so much on the outcome of a test and worry about students’ grades. We need to focus on how students are learning the information. Students need to learn the content and also apply it as they set their sights on the future.”
Royce stressed that students will only improve their chances of success and happiness with their careers by utilizing a hands-on, problem-solving approach. “Not all students are going to desire to go to a four-year liberal arts institution. Post-baccalaureate training at career and technology centers have programs that are preparing students for areas in trade, all of which involve STEM anymore.
“We, as educators, know we have to prepare students to begin to grasp opportunities, think critically, use design-thinking approaches, integrate concepts together, and work collaboratively as a team. All of those things fall under what STEM is doing as we look toward the future.”
STEM also is being used more often during after-school and summer programs at all levels of education. Royce believes this is an integral part of developing the problem-solving mentality for students.
“We spend lots of time, energy, and money in our country promoting after-school and summer programs for students. STEM is finding a place in the extracurricular vein as well. This will only help develop our students.”
Royce said a key for Ship students is to have a passion for what and who they chose to teach. “Find an area that you want to teach in terms of grade level and subject. Always keep in mind you teach students first and foremost. You can help students develop a love of learning in that content area with your enthusiasm and passion.
“Students at Ship will benefit by thinking about what they are doing in their classrooms in a broader perspective. The faculty is also incorporating real-life applications of the content in their coursework. Students are then able to start to see where information they need to learn for a test becomes very useful for the future.”
There is no doubt Royce’s promotion of STEM will have a major impact on education today and in the future.
John Walsh ’01 is a language arts teacher in northeast Pennsylvania.