Reform Project To Link Teachers, Working Scientists
By Peter West
WASHINGTON--The Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences have launched a venture to improve elementary- school science by linking teachers with working scientists.
The National Elementary Science Leadership Initiative, which began this month, is designed to "capitalize on the unique capacity of [the organizations] to marshal the energy of the leaders in science, education, and industry at the national, state, and local levels," according to a draft proposal for the project developed by the National Science Resources Center, a cooperative venture of the Smithsonian and the Academy.
The six-year initiative is built around a series of "leadership institutes" that will bring educators and scientists together to share ideas about science and science teaching and to spur reform at the local level.
"It's going to be an exceedingly thorough program that links the grassroots with a leadership network at their own level," said Kathleen Holmay, a N.S.R.C. spokesman.
The program is based on a series of smaller institutes that the N.S.R.C. has held in Washington for several years.
The Education Department, the National Science Foundation, and private science- and technology related concerns such as the Dow Chemical Company Foundation, the Digital Equipment Corporation, and the Hewlett-Packard Company are sharing the costs of the project.
N.s.F. has pledged $5.9 million in support over six years. The Education Department has promised $280,000 and the corporate sponsors have offered varying amounts, a spokesman said.
Under the project, the N.S.R.C. plans to hold two institutes annually where leadership teams composed of teachers, science coordinators, superintendents, and local scientists drawn from 30 school districts will meet to plan reform.
Over the next four years, the institutes are expected to prepare as many as 520 participants, representing 120 urban, rural, and suburban districts.
Original and Existing Reforms
And, while officials anticipate that the new initiative will encourage the local teams to create original reforms, N.S.R.C. officials said, it also is designed to support existing efforts, such as those sponsored by the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the N.S.F.
A key element of the new program will be a series of "leadership institutes for scientists," the first of which is tentatively scheduled for this spring, which will help researchers mull over the ways in which their discoveries could be melded into precollegiate teaching, Ms. Holmay said.
The two national groups will also offer technical assistance to help provide cohesiveness to the project, including setting up a telecommunications network that will allow institute alumni to share ideas and concerns.