Choose a role that will make the most of your talent and time
Take a look at some of the most effective programs in the US
involving scientists and engineers in K-12 science education.
Broaden your understanding through selected articles and other
 recommended resources.
Tell us what you think.
Contact Information for the RISE program

Science, Engineers, and Scientists in the Schools Conference

A Working Conference --- November 6-7, 1996

Resources for Involving Scientists in Education (RISE)
Center for Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Education
Arnold and Mabel Beckman Center
National Academies of Science & Engineering
100 Academy Drive
Irvine, CA. 92612-3002

Tel: (714) 721-2200

Wednesday, November 6

7:00 - 8:30 ----- Breakfast
8:30 - 8:50 ----- Goals of the meeting
8:50 - 10:00 --- Introductions

Directions for first working session

10:00 - 10:15 --- Break

Goal 1: Identify an array of roles to be played by scientists and engineers in support of Standards-based K-12 science education.

10:15 - 11:15 --- Small groups develop descriptions and identify resources for various roles in four areas:

  • Working directly with students
  • Working with teachers
  • Developing instructional materials
  • Supporting systemic programs

11:15 - 12:30 --- Plenary Session

Distribute information on tomorrow's Issues sessions

12:30 - 1:30 --- Lunch

Goal 2: Describe for a general audience various levels of involvement in education for scientists and engineers--ranging from intermittent individual actions to highly-structured systemic reform.

1:30 - 1:50 --- Overview of development of the levels

Directions for second working session

1:50 - 3:00 --- Small groups develop descriptions of levels of organization and of requirements for growth.
The levels are:

  • Becoming informed to taking individual action
  • Forming a group and coordinating with educators
  • Establishing a program structure
  • Networking among organizations--toward systemic coordination of resources

3:00 - 3:15 --- Break
3:15 - 5:00 --- Plenary session

Thursday, November 7

7: 00 - 8:30--- Breakfast
8:30 - 8:50 --- Review of today's agenda

Other concerns

Goal 3: Take advantage of the cumulative experience of those convened to examine cross-cutting issues about partnerships in K-12 science education. See below.

8:50 - 10:30------ Issue discussion #1
10:30 - 10:45---- Break
10: 45 - 12:00--- Issue discussion #2
12:00 - 1:00 ----- Lunch

Goal 4: Collect advice and information from participants about the use of the Internet to disseminate information related to this conference.

1:00 - 2:30 --- Discussions: Why and How to Disseminate Electronically
2:30 - 3:00 --- Wrap Up

Issues Presented to the Conference Participants

1. Integration or Alignment with School Programs

In some projects, the scientist involvements are an official, integral, and even essential part of the educational program of a school or district. In some projects, the involvement is for most purposes independent of the school or district programs. In most projects, the scientist involvements lie somewhere in between. This leads to the following questions (and others):

  • How can one characterize the degrees of scientist integration in educational programs?
  • How important (or unimportant) is it that the integration be high?
    • What are the advantages of a high degree of integration?
    • What are the disadvantages?
  • How does a project achieve high integration?
    • What are the major obstacles?
    • What are some key suggestions?
    • What are some paths for moving from low to high integration?
  • Where the integration is less than high, how aligned are the activities of the project with the goals of the district?
    • How to assess the degree of alignment?
    • How important is it that the alignment be high?
    • How promote a higher degree of alignment?

2. Bridging the Gap Between the Two Cultures

Teachers have a lot to learn from scientists; and scientists, if they are to be really helpful, have a lot to learn from teachers. But teachers and scientists come from two widely divergent cultures.

The divergence can inhibit the initiation of contacts between teachers and scientists. Teachers often have poor communications media available to them and are often intimidated by scientists, so that teacher-initiated contacts are rare. And scientists, who live in a different world in which science education is a very minor concern, are unlikely to have initiating ideas or other motivations to break into the world of teachers.

This situation also inhibits on-going communication, both psychologically and technologically, and that can undermine long-term relationships.

  • Are frequent interactions between teachers and scientists really necessary?
    • If yes, what kinds? Why necessary?
    • If no, why not? Would more frequent interactions be helpful? What kind? How?
  • Is teacher-scientist bonding essential to help bridge the gap (or surmount the barrier?) between them?
    • If so, when and how is bonding promoted? At what stages of a project? In what activities?
    • And how is it sustained and even strengthened?
  • If such bonding is not essential, what are other ways to promote and enhance interactions?

3. Maximizing Leverage of Individual Scientists

Some projects give each participating scientist the opportunity for the widest (if not deepest) impact. Others are designed to promote a very deep (if not wide) impact. The ideal projects, those with the maximum "leverage", should presumably lead to an impact that is both wide and deep.

  • In what kinds of projects is breadth the virtue and shallowness the vice? Is this inherent, or can something be done to deepen the impact? What?
  • In what kinds of projects is depth the virtue and narrowness the vice?
  • Is this inherent, or can something be done to broaden the impact? What?
  • How important should leverage be in considering the merits of a project?

Note: The leverage of individual participating scientists shouldn't be confused with the leverage of the scientists leading projects for which increasing the leverage may mean enlarging the scale.

4. Scaling Up amd Disseminating Projects

For some projects, the scale may be inherent in the project, but for others increasing the scale is a major challenge once the project has proved successful on a small scale.

  • What are the major considerations in deciding whether to try to scale up a project? What conditions in a project and in the environment must be met before trying to scale up?
  • What are the major obstacles in trying to scale up?
  • What are the particular challenges to scaling up posed in the following areas:
    • Organization
    • Support resources
    • Recruitment
    • Funding
    • Geographical extendedness
    • Communication
    • Supervision
    • Assessment
  • Are there kinds of projects for which the scale seems inherent? Any examples of these that can also be (or have been) scaled up?
  • What are the best dissemination modes to pursue, apart from scaling up?

5. Recruiting & Training of Scientists

Scientists know a lot about science but very little about education (even undergraduate education), children, science education, or the science education culture in general. They need training, although just how much and what kind depends on the project in which they'll be involved.

  • What kinds of training are needed? How much? Training details? Special materials? Interaction with teachers during training?
  • What are the results? How do you know?
  • What are some general principles to follow? Things to avoid?

6. Assessing and Improving Projects

To scientists, the measures of success of a project are usually the discoveries, publications, patents, grants, invitations, and prizes that arise from the work. To science educators, the objective measures of success are far less clear, so evaluatory studies (program assessments) have to be undertaken by outside assessment professionals.

  • How valid (and useful) can program assessments be in determining the total worth of a project? In assessing the contributions of scientists?
  • How can good assessments be used to further a project? In improving its structure? In recruitment? In fund-raising? In other ways?
  • What steps should be taken to get a good assessment? At what stage? At what cost? What are the pitfalls to be encountered and the precautions to be taken?

7. Funding

  • Science education projects derive their funding from a wide variety of sources, and their continuations and expansions from an even wider variety. Some are generic; some are specific to the particular kind of project. Some are national or regional; some are distinctly local. All have their own distinct agenda.
  • Are there any general principles regarding sources and methods that these projects should follow in seeking initial funding? Continuing funding?
  • Is there any way to keep the efforts from being competitive and interfering with the cooperation among projects that is so often desirable?

Copyright National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.