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New Program To Train Teachers In Hands-On Science Techniques

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Washington--Contending that improvements in science education must begin at the elementary level, officials from the National Science Teachers Association and the Upjohn Corporation last week unveiled a program to train elementary teachers in the use of hands-on methods of instruction.

Such techniques "are the things kids remember and learn from," Sally K. Ride, the former astronaut, said at a press conference here. "The more kids we expose to this [kind of teaching], the more will go on to science and engineering careers."

Under the program, which will begin on a pilot basis this year, 12 teachers will participate in an intensive, week-long seminar, where they will learn about hands-on methods and practice the techniques with children in the Kalamazoo, Mich., area. The teachers are then expected to conduct inservice workshops for other teachers in their home districts.

In addition, the participating teachers will create their own instructional techniques, which will be collected and published, and develop a videotape demonstrating their methods that will be disseminated nationwide.

Bill G. Aldridge, executive director of the nsta, said he hoped the program would encourage teachers to lessen their traditional reliance on textbooks and lecturing. Currently, he said, most elementary-school teachers lack the scientific background needed to appreciate the value of hands-on learning.

'Doing' Science

"Teachers often misunderstand the difference between reading about science and doing it," he said. "Words in passages don't mean anything without experience first."

Mark Novitch, Upjohn's vice president for research, said the program has sparked a good deal of demand among teachers. The firm has already received 120 applications for the 12 slots, he noted, and officials expect another 300 to 400 before the deadline at the end of the month.

If the pilot proves successful, he added, Upjohn plans to expand it in the coming years. The firm has invested $200,000 this year, he said, and officials "intend to make this a long-term program."

Linda Wrhen, a 3rd-grade teacher at the Smedley Street School in Oil City, Pa., said high-quality hands-on science teaching is not expensive.

"It takes an interested, dedicated teacher, a few simple materials, and a classroom of curious kids," she said at the press conference. ''You can find those in every classroom in America."

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