June 3, 1998 -- For more information on the first item below, contact Lee Herring at (703) 306-1070.
"TRIAD" SEEKS EDUCATIONAL GENDER EQUITY
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 firstname.lastname@example.org]
NSB HEARING HIGHLIGHTS IMPORTANCE OF INFORMAL EDUCATION IN IMPROVING SCIENCE LITERACY
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 organizations.
"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 structured."
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.