WHAT IS TEWS?

The Earth We Share™ (TEWS) is a program of the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence (DJF) that promotes science literacy for all students and even adults. Science literacy is the baseline level of knowledge and skills that allow a high school graduate to read a daily newspaper article about healthcare, the environment or new computers and understand what it means for themselves, their families and their community.

In 1994, Dr. Mae Jemison, astronaut, engineer, physician and university professor founded TEWS to help students and teachers learn about science, technology and our world in a fun way—you do it—not just the rote memorization we all get used to in school.

Children are innately curious, energetic, confident, motivated and enthusiastic. They enter kindergarten excited to learn about the world around them. They want to be responsible for themselves as they learn how the world “works.” Yet, our current teaching methods do not take advantage of this prodigious natural construct for learning. Instead, students are often given facts to memorize and information to regurgitate, while the grounding that their primary learning responsibility—their ability to think through a problem—is continuously eroded. Formal education becomes to an extent a disabling rather than an enabling experience.

TEWS is centered on the premise that a meaningful educational experience “ integrates a student’s intellect, emotions interests and skills to reproduce a significant sense of achievement and growth, bolsters the students’ confidence in their own ability to think, to feel, to take action and to cope with future challenges. It promotes self-esteem.” Adapted from Dr. Cheryl Morrows, Meaningful Experiencesin Science Education. Engaging the Space Researcher in a Cultural Transformation to Science Literacy. Journal of British Planetary Society: Vol. 46, 1993

This year TEWS celebrates its tenth anniversary using experiential learning methods to stimulate and maintain student interest in science. It is designed to promote science literacy for all students. TEWS builds a framework for acquiring knowledge and exploits students’ creativity and curiosity—the hallmarks of both science and adolescence. Students work in groups with participants from other countries and backgrounds to solve contemporary dilemmas facing our global society such as “How Many People Can the Earth Hold?” and “Design the World’s Perfect House.” While exploring these Discovery Topics™, students own the learning experience, assimilate lots of science “facts” and techniques in a short time, and build critical thinking and problem solving skills. They gain appreciation of the effect science and technology has on societies around the world and a sense of the responsibility society must have for technological development.

Teachers have the opportunity to practice experiential teaching methods while also learning the relevance of science and technology to our everyday world. They are exposed to a variety of cultures and perspectives from students of various communities throughout the United States and around the world. They learn to teach when the final answer is not defined in a single textbook, but the desired outcome—better educated students—is paramount. Our teachers return to their respective schools and then continue to impact hundreds of other students over their teaching career.

TEWS’ methodology has also been used in day programs in South Africa and Tunisia, and even with business folks in Switzerland!

PURPOSE OF TEWS

First, to improve science literacy by teaching students how to apply knowledge to real life situations, solve problems and manipulate data, answer their own questions and therefore, make a personal investment in learning. This experiential method helps students master deductive and inductive reasoning as well as the “AHA!”brainstorming experience. Students trained in this manner will, in the future, be able to put new information into a framework that facilitates understanding and application to daily life.

Secondly, to enhance teachers’ confidence and skills in science education through the practice of experiential teaching methods and the active exchange of ideas with other educators and industry professionals.