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Topic: Gender Equity / Informal Education
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Gender Equity / Informal Education
Posted: Jun 5, 1998 11:07 AM
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June 3, 1998 -- For more information on the first item below, contact Lee
Herring at (703) 306-1070.


A National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded project in
California is having an impact on the performance of middle
school-aged girls in science courses within the San Francisco
Unified School district.

Leaders of the Women's Triad Project also say they are
developing a common language between research scientists and
teachers to create a better common ground between the two
cultures, aimed at improving teaching and mentoring of women.

"We found that scientists and teachers have different
connotations of certain terms," says Liesl Chatman, executive
director of the Science and Health Education Partnership at the
University of California in San Francisco, where Triad was
developed. "For a scientist, a model is a flexible
representation of how something might work -- it can be modified
as more is learned. For a teacher, a model often refers to
something that is already exemplary. A scientist views being
critical as essential to the process of scientific investigation
-- to pick apart what doesn't work. To a teacher, being critical
often runs counter to creating a nurturing learning environment
for young people. It is the balance of criticism and nurturing
that scientists and teachers can learn from each other."

Chatman says Triad has helped young women show more interest
in science, improving their confidence by more risk-taking and
display more verbal confidence and more self-assuredness in their
defense of positions on projects. The next step, says Chatman,
is to work with teachers to examine their own practices, to set
real goals and to create an environment in the classroom for
gender equality.

Program contact: Daryl Chubin [(703) 306-2000]


A better connection between informal and formal education
would help to prepare K-12 science and mathematics students for
the 21st century, according to several participants at an unusual
hearing in Los Angeles May 29.

The one-day hearing, titled "Enriching Lives Through
Informal Education," was hosted by the Committee on Education and
Human Resources (EHR) of the National Science Board (NSB). The
Board normally meets at the National Science Foundation in
Arlington, Va.. The LA hearing -- held at the National History
Museum of Los Angeles County and the California Science Center --
is the first of three planned by the Board's education committee
to increase the Board's geographic outreach. (The second and
third will take place in Chicago and Puerto Rico.)

NSB members heard panelists and local attendees discuss the
range, impact, and future of informal (non-school-based)
education. The National Science Foundation (NSF) invests $36
million annually in informal education activities such as
museums, print and broadcast programs, and community-based
organizations, to increase appreciation and understanding of
science and technology. California receives more of such NSF
funds than any other state.

Common themes expressed at the hearing included pleas for
longer and larger NSF grants to build on promising experiments
and extend proven programs; the need for more research on the
nature of learning; the value of informal education (such as
science museums) in training K-12 teachers; and suggestions for
stronger connections with formal (school-based) education

"The informal science community is underestimating its own
potential impact on science literacy, and its current and
potential importance in supporting formal education," said former
NSB member (now consultant) Shirley Malcom, who is also a member
of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

"The formal education community is skeptical of the value of
informal education," said Kathleen McLean of the Exploratorium in
San Francisco. "We need both."

Former NSB member and Museum of Natural History Director Jim
Powell emphasized the need for various segments of the informal
science education community to work together. NSB vice chair and
University of Texas-El Paso President Diana Natalicio added that
new partnerships will have to be created because "distinctions
among various kinds of institutions have begun to blur ... there
is a ... convergence on effective learning, (but) these
partnerships don't happen by accident. They have to be

California Science Center Executive Director Jeffrey Rudolph
pleaded for teachers to make wise use of science museums. "Use
us well. There's a tremendous difference between the teachers
who prepare (before bringing students to the center) and those
that don't."

NSB education committee chair and California State
Polytechnic Institute President Bob Suzuki called the hearing a
success. "We've gotten a lot of great ideas, and a better sense
of what is needed in informal education, which we could not have
gotten back in Washington D.C. That's really the point of these
field hearings."

Malcom said the EHR committee will report the results of the
hearing to the full Board in a summary report.

For more on the hearing, see:

Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)

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