Better Biology in Middle School
Now in its third year of a research grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Project 2061 and collaborators at the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study have been working with teachers in Colorado, Maryland, Boston, and Washington, D.C., to develop and try out an innovative curriculum unit designed to prepare middle-school students for success in high school biology. The unit takes a novel approach by focusing fi rst on core ideas about chemical reactions and then using those ideas to explain growth and repair in living organisms. Students also work with a variety of models — from LEGO® blocks to more conventional models and equations — and learn how to use their new ideas, evidence and reasoning to develop a scientific explanation for what they observe.
“We want students to be able to use what they learn from studying relatively simple chemical reactions to then explain more complex phenomena such as protein synthesis in animals or carbohydrate synthesis in plants,” said Project 2061 Director Jo Ellen Roseman. After two rounds of classroom pilot testing, she said that the unit has resulted in “significant learning gains” for all populations of students who have used it.
Understanding Evolution Through Mathematics
The University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center, a collaborator on the project, is developing prototype lessons and interactive, multimedia, computer-based simulations. By allowing the students to collect and analyze data from certain animal populations over several virtual years, the simulations will help the students to visualize the organisms and habitats, understand sampling processes, make measurements, and see evidence of natural selection in the data. Project 2061 is developing instruments that will be used to measure what students and teachers understand about the concepts being targeted in the curriculum and to monitor the quality of the curriculum itself.
“Create and Take” Tests
“Getting reliable and timely information about what students know or don’t know means that teachers can adjust their instruction to respond quickly to their students’ needs,” said George DeBoer, deputy director of Project 2061.
By April 2012, a year after its initial launch, the Project 2061 Web site had logged 12,000 registered users and nearly 70,000 visitors.
Improving Energy Education
“A strong foundation of knowledge about energy is essential,” said Cari F. Herrmann Abell, senior research associate for Project 2061. “Whether choosing which cars we drive or thinking about national energy policy issues, understanding basic energy concepts can help everyone make more well-informed decisions.”
EDUCATION, OUTREACH AND CAREERS
AAAS brings exciting opportunities to science students and professionals in the science and technology community. Helping build bridges to careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics bolsters the STEM work force and all that it can bring to our lives. At a time when STEM education is struggling to produce enough graduates to keep the United States’ science and technology sectors competitive, AAAS reaches out through a variety of programs to make sure talent and interest in scientific endeavors are nurtured.
Emerging Researchers in STEM
Emphasizing that goal, the 2012 Emerging Researchers National Conference — sponsored by AAAS Education and Human Resources and the National Science Foundation Division of Human Resource Development — supported a diverse group of STEM students and helped them along their path to scientific careers. The conference drew 885 attendees, including 421 undergrad student presenters, 89 grad student presenters and 56 exhibitors.
The students shared their scientific research projects, met with peers from all over the country, got feedback from mentors, and attended workshops on applying to graduate school, writing abstracts, and exploring careers beyond academia.
NOYCE Scholars Conference
Just as national science testing showed stagnating scores, with just a third of eighth-graders at or above the proficient level for their grade, a report released by AAAS at the conference described the innovative strategies used by the scholarship program to attract and prepare teachers to address STEM learning challenges. The program finds and develops the teachers by offering them a chance to work in afterschool programs, mentoring them with the help of local educators, and providing them with funding for research projects of their own.
Improving STEM learning requires, among other things, “a terrific teacher for every student,” said Shirley Malcom, director of AAAS Education and Human Resources.
After a redesign based on user surveys that tied the site’s science content more closely to current events and news, the site — with its daily science news content, online science education community and improved resource tools — won perfect scores for content and feature functionality. “The updated site and dynamic resources will keep students and teachers engaged, informed and coming back,” said Suzanne Thurston, AAAS project director.
GSK’s Science in the Summer
A GlaxoSmithKline program administered by AAAS, Science in the Summer was provided to elementary-school students at 19 libraries and community centers in 2012. All were located in the Washington, D.C., and Baltimore areas. AAAS oversees the curriculum, recruits and trains teachers, makes site visits and provides materials to each host site.
“The reaction from girls and boys, parents and staff at the host sites has been very positive,” said Program Manager Betty Calinger.
In 2012, Science Careers Business published Career Trends: Industry or Academia, a new booklet featuring articles on advancing in academia, preparing for a career in pharmaceutical research, and the benefi ts of biotechnology training programs.
AAAS and Science Careers, in partnership with the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Medical College of Wisconsin, launched MyIDP, a Web-based tool created to help graduate students and postdocs in the sciences define and pursue their career goals.