By: Nicole Wong

…The final panel included Michael Kotick, Democratic congressional candidate for California’s 48th district, Eddie Tabata, executive director of Science@OC and Rossella Santagata, UCI education professor, who addressed the need for increased STEM education in K-12 schools.

“Passion drives education,” said Kotick, who stressed the importance of exposing kids to the possibilities of STEM as early as possible so they have the opportunity to discover that passion. “Someone’s passion for learning and thirst for knowledge is fundamentally crucial in how well and how fast [students] learn.”

Santagata stressed the importance of recruiting, training and retaining teachers.

Tabata brought up the fact that California is very close to adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which aims to increase scientific interest in students. He also said this is important in effectively preparing the future workforce in what was deemed the point of the night.

“[Companies] need students who are flexible-thinking, able to do argumentative work and stand on their own, but also to be able to transfer their skills across disciplines,” said Tabata. “Are we teaching those skills in education? Not necessarily… [Adopting the NGSS] is a window of opportunity for school districts here in California to change the way they do science education.”