October 3, 2007 – An HISD science teacher who was born on the day Sputnik was launched met with the superintendent and students Thursday, the 50th anniversary of the start of the Space Age, to discuss plans to improve science labs at every middle and high school in Houston.
To mark the historic anniversary that changed the world and helped drive Houston toward international recognition as the center of the space race, Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra talked Thursday about the state of science education in Houston today and the proposed new bond issue that will give middle and high schools upgraded science labs.
At the 1:30 p.m. event at Clifton Middle School (6001 Golden Forest, 77092) Dr. Saavedra and students was joined by Cheryl Anderson, a science teacher at Clifton who was born on October 4, 1957, the very day that Russia launched the satellite Sputnik, and launched the Space Age.
Ms. Anderson, whose uncle nicknamed her “Sputnik” at a young age, said she talks with her students every year on the anniversary – her birthday — about how important the first satellite was and how the space race led to enormous technological innovation that helped America remain the world’s superpower.
Clifton Middle School is a science magnet school, but like other middle and high schools around HISD, its science lab facilities are lacking. In one Clifton science lab, waste baskets are gathered to catch the water falling from leaking air conditioners overhead. There are no bunson burners, functioning gas lines or other heat sources to help students perform experiments, so teachers have to make do with candles and hot plates. Ms. Anderson’s room does not have running water.
The labs at Clifton also don’t have hot water, and there is no system to ventilate air to the outside, which means, according to another science teacher, other types of science experiments can’t be done. The school also needs more science lab computers.
Still, Clifton is rated by the Texas Education Agency as a “Recognized” middle school, and last year 72 percent of its eighth graders passed the TAKS science test, much better than the HISD district wide average for eighth graders of 56 percent.
Under the bond proposal on the November 6 ballot, Clifton will get nearly $300,000 for science program upgrades, including the labs. That’s part of nearly $30 million set aside in the bond program proposal for science labs and science upgrades at every HISD middle and high school, except the new schools that already have modern labs.
Clifton’s science program, under the bond proposal, would get new demonstration tables, sinks in the classrooms, preparation room storage with sinks, eyewashes with drains, air exchange systems, fume hoods for labs and master shut-offs for utilities. Clifton also will get new science equipment.
Clifton will get $9.6 million from the bond program all totaled, including $1.7 million to replace the old, leaky air conditioning system.