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Merck: Penn-Merck Collaborative

Penn-Merck Project. In 1993, the Merck Initiative teamed with the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, School of Engineering and Applied Science, and School of Veterinary Medicine, along with the School District of Philadelphia, the develop a proposal to The National Science Foundation to improve science teaching in twenty-five of the district's elementary schools. The Penn-Merck Collaborative awarded a $1.8 million , five-year grant in 1994, and the first program for forty-eight K-3 teachers began that summer.

Objectives. The Penn-Merck Collaborative has three inter-related objectives:

  • to establish a cadre of Leader Teachers to serve as mentors and change agents in science education;
  • to deepen students' knowledge and understanding of science content and process; and
  • to encourage and ensure the participation of female and minority students who have been historically under-represented in science careers, and provide motivation for further study and career selection in this area.

Strategies. The strategies for accomplishing these objectives include:

1. Provide a year-long, graduate level, continuing education program at the University of Pennsylvania and in the public schools, for elementary-grade teachers, through a three-week Summer Institute focused on the physical sciences, an academic-year seminar, and a follow-up three-week Summer Institute focused on the earth and life sciences.

2. Help teachers work together to apply current research on science education to improve classroom practice.

3. Engage teachers in an inductive, constructivist approach to teaching science, in which they first explore materials and articulate their prior knowledge about a science topic, and then apply and integrate conceptual and factual information from resource materials.

4. Promote teachers' awareness of their students' needs in science by engaging them in the same type of hands-on learning, demonstration, and problem-solving they will use with the students.

5. Build a community of staff and administrators within the schools to sustain an active network for improvement, and to support teachers in mentoring, team work, and reflective teaching.

Partnerships with Volunteers and Graduate Students. Throughout the year, Merck employee volunteers, along with engineering students from Penn, work as partners with teachers in their classrooms. Volunteers receive training, support, and feedback for their participation. One of this project's challenges is the recruitment of volunteers from a Merck site (West Point, PA) located a considerable distance from Philadelphia. In addition, Merck employees' children do not, for the most part, attend the schools in this region.

Project Personnel. Nancy Streim (Associate Dean of the Graduate School of Education) and Teresa Pica (Ethel Carruth Professor and Chair of the Language in Education Division) co-direct the project with Carlo Parravano (Director, Merck Institute for Science Education). Jane Horwitz coordinates all activities and services, and Ryda Rose (Educational Leadership Division) provides leadership in science education. They have worked together with colleagues Jeffrey Wortman (former Associate Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine), Gregory Reaves (former engineer and current Manager of Government Relations at Merck), and the late Jacob Abel (Professor of Mechanical Engineering) to launch this initiative.

For more information, contact:

Jane Horwitz, Coordinator
Penn-Merck Collaborative
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6216.

Telephone 215-898-6299.


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