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Merck: Technical Professional and Other Employees as Volunteers

School-based Volunteer Teams. In support of the teachers and the entire reform effort, the Merck Institute recruited teams of Merck employees to serve as resources for teachers within each building. The teams have as few as two volunteers and as many as ten. The Merck Institute coordinates these efforts and provides technical support.

Make-up of Volunteer Teams. Teams are composed of Merck scientists and employees at all levels within company. retirees are also active team members, particularly at one Merck site. The Merck Institute encourages all employees to participate, and to make a contribution commensurate with their interests, abilities, and time available. [For another example, in which the focus is solely on retirees, see Project RE-SEED {>Example, Project RE-SEED}]

Roles of Volunteers. Volunteers directly support teachers and students in a variety of ways. They:

  • Act as a support person to help teachers solve practical problems.
  • Act as an adviser or a mentor to teachers about science content.
  • Act as a resource to teachers to help plan and deliver lessons.
  • Work with teachers to plan presentations by other scientists.
  • Act as role models for students in the classroom.
  • Help provide access to additional resources, e.g., hep determine what to purchase (or locate) and where to find it.

Merck volunteers also play roles less directly related to the classrooms. They:

  • Garner community support for evening and weekend science activities and science fairs.
  • Serve on curriculum review committees, where they can give credibility to the process of moving from textbooks to kit-based modules.
  • Exert policy leadership by running for and serving on school boards.
  • Conducting plant tours.
  • Judging science fairs.
  • Construct classroom demonstration equipment.
  • Coach Science Olympiad teams.

Recruiting Volunteers. The Merck Institute recruits employee volunteers in a variety of ways. Recruiting sessions are held in the company cafeteria and in the lobbies of research buildings once or twice a year. Merck Institute staff members provide information about the programs and answer questions. Regular solicitations are made in internal company newsletters and on the company's Intranet site. Recruiting is also done at annual company-wide events that draw large numbers of employees. Occasionally, the portable planetarium Starlab is set up in the cafeteria, and employees are given a short astronomy presentation, to communicate firsthand the excitement of science teaching and the power of new teaching tools.

Training Volunteers. The Merck Institute has found that a minimum amount of training is required for volunteers to be effective. For new volunteers the Institute provides three sessions

Volunteering 101 presents the roles and opportunities for volunteers, the Merck Institute program, and the broad issues of reform and equity. A brief introduction to The Resource Center is also included.

Volunteering 201 focuses on preparing volunteers for mentoring teachers and classroom visits. This session deals with developmentally and age appropriate curriculum and materials, specifically resources that are available in the two Resource Centers (including the STC, FOSS, and Insights modules).

Volunteering 301 focuses on inquiry-centered lesson planning, teaching, and assessment of student learning. The integration of math and computer technology into science lessons is also demonstrated.

Other Activities. As an initial step in expanding the reform efforts of the Partnership, the Merck Institute is supporting the work of employee volunteers at other Merck sites. Merck employee volunteers are active in many states throughout the United States. In addition to school-based activities, volunteers promote interest in science education by offering programs to employees and their families at Merck sites. Among them are Family Science programs, STARLAB Saturdays, Science-by-Mail programs, science fairs, summer camps, site tours, and career days.

The Merck Institute also supports

  • precollege science education in Puerto Rico through a Fairleigh Fairleigh Dickinson University program
  • the Douglass Science Institute for young women at Rutgers University
  • the ChIME program for minority students at the New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Merck State Science Day
  • MathCounts programs
  • Raritan Valley Community College
  • several science fairs, including the Delaware Valley Science Fair.

Organization and Assessment of Volunteers. Volunteer Coordination Boards have been established at Merck sites in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These boards set local volunteer policy, provide direction, and coordinate the activities of the volunteer corps. After each volunteer activity or classroom visit, the volunteers complete and file an activity report. CPRE has developed a questionnaire to be used to track and assess the volunteer effort.

Time Spent. For Merck volunteers, the time spent is variable. Some volunteers are able to commit to a weekly or monthly classroom visit; others can participate only once a year, for example, as a science fair judge.

Recognition. As of 1997, Merck & Co., Inc. has no formal policy under which it recognizes the contributions of employee volunteers. Volunteers participate with the approval of their managers or in their free time. The Company supports and funds the program of The Merck Institute, as the Institute regularly acknowledges employee efforts.


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