Throng of Scientists, Engineers To Venture Into Middle Schools

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Prize-winning scientists and engineers will venture into middle schools across the country as part of a program the National Science Foundation announced last week.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the independent federal agency, along with its partners Dow Chemical Co., Dartmouth College, and Science Service, has launched Scientists and Engineers in the Schools. The yearlong initiative will bring together middle school students and teachers with some of the nation's most accomplished scientists and engineers, including Nobel laureates and winners of such awards as the Medal of Science and the Medal of Technology.

"It is a time to positively influence citizens across the nation about the importance of science and engineering in our lives and encourage students to consider careers in these fields," said Rita R. Colwell, the director of the NSF. "We have a challenge to reach out to the next generation," she said at a news conference held here to announce the enterprise.

The NSF has 240 participants who will begin to visit schools this month. It continues to seek volunteers to make a commitment to spend as little as half a day in a school by May of next year. The purpose of the visits will be to introduce students to the opportunities available to them through science, engineering, and technology, and to foster more one-on-one interaction between professional scientists and students.

The Midland, Mich.-based Dow Chemical Co. has invested $650,000 in the pilot program and may continue its investment if the program proves successful, said Bill Line, a spokesman for the NSF.

Influencing Career Choices

According to a survey last year by the Market Research Institute, the nation's K-12 science teachers said it was very important for students to have one-on-one contact with scientists and engineers to help prepare them for a technologically advanced world.

"Somewhere around middle school, students lose interest in science," said Leon Lederman, the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in physics and a program participant. "There is potential here to educate all citizens to a high level of science savvy," he said.

"The enthusiastic response we received from the scientists and engineers is a testament not only to their sense of responsibility, but their acknowledgment of the importance of this kind of program," said H. Guyford Stever, the director of Science Service. The Washington-based organization promotes an understanding and appreciation of science and administers the Intel Science Talent Search, the former Westinghouse competition for high school science students.

Julie A. Jacko, an award-winning engineer and another participant, agreed. "At this age, students are making decisions about who they are going to become. If we can influence this decision, it will be a great impact," said Ms. Jacko, a professor of industrial engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

In addition to the Scientists and Engineers in the Schools program, the NSF announced that members of the scientific community, as well as leaders in academia, industry, and government, would meet in July at Dartmouth College in Hanover, N.H., for the SEEing (Science, Engineering and Education) the Future Institute. Participants will discuss the impact of science, engineering, and technology on society in the coming the years and will report recommendations to Congress in September.

Vol. 19, Issue 34, Page 5

Published in Print: May 3, 2000, as Throng of Scientists, Engineers To Venture Into Middle Schools
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