Kate Jenkins Mercado

Mechanical, inflammable, insufferable.

Marmot Creek
The Glass Banana


A project to fix science and engineering education in the San Francisco Bay Area

LASER is a hands-on, brains-on, project and portfolio-based middle school education project in the San Francisco Bay Area for math and science. We take our name to honor E.O. Lawrence, Nobel Laureate and legendary physics professor at the University of California, Berkeley (no affiliation).

Welcome to LASER. We are a middle school education project for science and math right here in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the next few posts I (Kate) would like to introduce you to what this project is, what this project isn’t, and some thoughts about math education specifically that come out of the background of each of the co-founders. I’ll also be touching on the evolution of our teaching philosophy, as well as going in to a bit of the decision making process for the venture as a whole: charter versus private? middle school as opposed to even earlier? and so on.

We argue that the best education is experiential and is motivated by clear context, not disjointed topics presented 42 minutes at a time: Think Reggio Emilia meets Rock-It Science meets Computer Clubhouse. As an example of our curriculum, consider the theme of navigation: we can connect historical and cultural developments with the arc of science, from magnetic lodestones in Persia, through ship’s chronometers in the British Royal Navy, through the satellite technology developed in the first half of the twentieth century that brings us GPS. Along this and similar arcs, we can provide real context for learning at an age-appropriate depth, all in a way that can be more readily recalled and built upon as a foundation of future learning. We also assert that too many for-profit institutions, not educators, have been involved in setting standards in the name of “education reform” that simply result in more (and more expensive) standardized testing using proprietary software. We believe that the goal of closing the achievement gap should not be satisfied simply by damping the educational ambition of any student who wants to learn more. We observe that parental socio-economic status is a better indicator of future success in America today than it should be, that poverty is real but not an excuse.

All this is to say that we welcome the challenge of technical education for the future. Let’s solve this. It will be better for everyone.

East Bay Independent Schools
Mr. Meyer’s Math
Diane Ravitch
Sally Ride Foundation
Education Week
Chronicle of Higher Education
REALM Berkeley
Sprout STEAM Academy
Funny Math Commentary