One new effort to spark student enthusiasm for science targets a particular audience: younger girls.
A nonprofit educational organization, the Academy for Educational Development, is launching a drive to use after-school programs to increase female students’ interest and achievement in science.
Great Science for Girls will use existing after-school programs at schools, community centers, and other facilities to cultivate that interest, especially among girls in grades 3-8, said Barbara Sprung, the co-director of the educational equity center at the AED, located in Washington. Encouraging girls to build their science skills and eventually pursue college majors and careers in those areas is an issue of renewed concern among education leaders and elected officials.
The five-year AED project is supported by a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation; money will flow to regional nonprofits and other organizations to deliver services, said Ms. Sprung. The idea is to hook girls on science through informal and inquiry-based lessons—an approach that focuses on building knowledge through students’ use of scientific investigations and hands-on activities, rather than simply through teacher-led presentations. Many after-school educational programs use that model already, Ms. Sprung said.
“The education that goes on there is informal, interactive, and project-oriented,” she noted.
A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2006 edition of Education Week