COSI levy will preserve important assetWritten by Dan Johnson | | email@example.com
When my wife, Elaine, and I first moved to Toledo we were struck by all the wonderful institutions that make this city and region a great place to live. We recount them often when we talk to our out-of-town friends and take pride in describing the world-class Metroparks system, the beautiful nationally recognized campus of the University of Toledo, the renowned Toledo Art Museum, the exciting Toledo Zoo, Fifth Third Field and the Mud Hens. The Toledo Symphony, the Toledo Opera, the Toledo Botanical Gardens and Broadway productions and artists that come to the Valentine and Stranahan theaters are all part of the fabric of Toledo that makes this a very special if not unique community. We also enjoy the surprised look from our friends when we tell them about the nationally ranked Toledo Public Library, the Maumee River waterfront, the summer jazz festival and the excellent restaurants and shopping to be found here. These institutions are the “crown jewels” of our city and region.
While it is not on the daily “radar screen” of most adults in Toledo, one of the most interesting, exciting and important community assets for Toledo’s kids is COSI. Ask any kid in Toledo and they will tell you about COSI. When they get a chance to visit this place of science and technology, their eyes light up, their imaginations are energized, and they see things done through science and technology that they can relate to and learn from. It inspires kids to want to “know how to do this stuff.”
COSI is a fun place for learning. I’ve visited it several times and have seen first hand what happens when the kids come through the doors of this fantastic facility on Toledo’s waterfront. Unlike a library where you are supposed to work quietly, COSI is a place where you can talk and touch as you go from one exciting exhibit to another.
Not only have I seen what COSI does to kids when they visit, I’m increasingly aware of what it produces for our city and surrounding community. COSI is having an important influence on our region, and its future impact will be even greater as science and technology play an increasing role in the preparation of our local workforce. I recently heard about a young person from Toledo’s central city who chose a career in science and credited his interest in science to COSI. I couldn’t help but wonder how many others are being influenced in their education and career choices because of what they see and learn while visiting COSI.
Because of what COSI is doing for our kids in helping to prepare them for the world of tomorrow, I rank it among Toledo’s wonderful and most important institutions. When you look at Toledo through the eyes of a child, COSI is their jewel in our city’s crown.
Dr. Charlene Czerniak, a nationally recognized authority on science education at the University of Toledo, describes the importance of science education for students and their communities in her recently published textbook, Project Based Science Methods (2007). According to Czerniak, “Children face an increasingly scientific and technological world … science and technology are needed increasingly in daily life. Additionally, many jobs will require students to understand science and technology. Because of the global economy that exists today … America’s economic future is dependent upon a knowledge-based economy … We need students who are well educated in science and technology and who can compete in a global marketplace.
Czerniak, together with hundreds of community leaders, is working to make COSI an outstanding center where kids can see, learn and experience science and technology. She describes COSI as a place that “provides learning experiences for students that make science meaningful and relevant to their lives.”
The other day I asked Dr. Carla Johnson, also an expert in science education at UT, what she thought about the role that COSI plays in Toledo. Her response was that she hoped the community was aware of “how COSI is a resource for the Toledo Public Schools and other urban schools that may not have the resources to provide rich science experiences for students.”
David Waterman, current chairman and longtime member of the COSI Board of Directors, stresses the importance of COSI’s education mission. According to Waterman, “Most people understand that COSI is a great facility for kids where science is taught through a fun, interactive experience. Few people, however, understand that our staff is in partnership with the Toledo public and suburban school systems offering science education, not only to students, but to teachers as well, both at COSI and in the classrooms.”
Waterman also points out that there is no state certification program to insure the quality and content of science education in the public school system at the elementary level, yet the state starts testing kids in the fourth grade. He noted that “the COSI staff has stepped into this void and developed programs for teachers geared to the state tests. This has proved to be an invaluable aid for science education.”
COSI received a National Teacher’s Choice Award in 2006 as one of the top science museum content providers in the country. This award was based on COSI’s Distance Learning Program which provides live, interactive learning experiences between COSI instructors and students throughout the world via video conference.
COSI is focused on children; children are COSI’s primary audience. But while COSI is serving the needs of kids it is also serving the needs and interests of our whole community. COSI helps make Toledo more attractive to investment and plays an indirect but important role in the region’s economic development.
COSI helps attract people to Downtown Toledo and enlivens our wonderful waterfront on the Maumee River. COSI signals the nation and the world that Toledo and Northwest Ohio are interested in science and technology, and that we are working to prepare our children for a world that is increasingly reliant on technology.
To get the flavor of COSI, check out its terrific Web site www.cositoledo.org. A few minutes browsing through COSI’s Web site will give you insight into its attractions for children as well as its value to Downtown Toledo and to our region. The science experiments, technology demonstrations, facilities, food and fun in COSI’s exciting environment create their own compelling story about the aspirations of our children and the kind of future we want for our city.
As a community we are regularly asked to support all kinds of causes, programs, people and institutions through our attendance, financial contributions and our tax dollars. Most of these are worthy of our support but we know we can’t support all of them. We have to choose. We have to set priorities and focus our support on those we know are important.
Election Day we will be faced with such a choice for COSI. It is Issue 14, the proposed levy to ensure that
Toledo keeps this jewel for our kids. David Waterman is right when he states: “At a time when the entire world is embracing technology and science education as the foundation for economic growth and prosperity, we simply cannot permit our community to take a step backward. The loss of COSI would be tragic.”
To me, support for COSI’s levy is supporting a more prosperous future for our city and region. But more importantly, supporting COSI’s levy is a tangible way for us to say our kids are truly important.
Dan Johnson is president emeritus and university professor of public policy and economic development at the University of Toledo. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.