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
- 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
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
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
For more information, contact:
Jane Horwitz, Coordinator
Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6216.