Science Education

AAAS reached out through a variety of programs to make sure
talent and interest in scientific endeavors were nurtured.

IMPROVING SCIENCE LITERACY

To prepare today’s students for a future that is increasingly dependent on science, mathematics and technology, educators need well-designed and effective preparation, curriculum and assessments. Project 2061 is helping to meet that need through its research and development efforts funded by the National Science Foundation, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA, and the U.S. Department of Education. Building on its own earlier accomplishments in standards-based science education, Project 2061’s current work integrates the teaching and learning of core science ideas, science practices and concepts that cut across disciplines as recommended in the National Research Council’s 2012 report, A Framework for K-12 Science Education.

Better Biology in Middle School

Cutting-edge research in biology, biotechnology and biomedicine is advancing quickly, with enormous potential for 21st-century innovation. Biology education, however, has mostly not kept up. New approaches are needed that incorporate scientific practices, offer students the opportunity to experience and think about a variety of real-world and relevant phenomena, and let students see how foundational principles can be applied across the sciences.

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

Project 2061 received a grant in 2012 from the National Science Foundation to develop a curriculum to help high-school students understand core ideas about evolution and data analysis. An understanding of evolution is crucial to the study of biology, but research has shown that many students have a poor grasp of the topic and fall victim to misconceptions about natural selection and genetics.

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

Project 2061 launched a new online feature in 2012 that allows teachers to create tests targeting key ideas related to 16 science topics, from evolution and natural selection, to the mechanics of earthquakes. The new feature builds on the capabilities of the AAAS Science Assessment Web site developed by Project 2061 to provide educators with access to more than 700 carefully developed science test questions. It allows teachers to assess what their students are learning and where they may have gaps.

“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

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education awarded a $1.6 million grant to Project 2061 to develop new assessments of how students build their knowledge of energy concepts from elementary school through high school. The testing tools will also identify where students are struggling so that teachers can target those areas. The project was one of only 26 funded by the Education Department in 2012 through its competitive education research grants program.

“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

In February 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology made an announcement: For the United States to remain competitive in the fi elds of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the country must increase its number of STEM graduates by 1 million over the next decade, which is a 34 percent rise over the current number of students who graduate in those fi elds.

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.

Page 29 picture of ChantalChantal Gonzalez of San Diego State University received a first place for her poster presentation at the 2012 Emerging Researchers National Conference. She was one of 885 participants in the event, supported by AAAS and the National Science Foundation. [COLELLADIGITAL.COM]

NOYCE Scholars Conference

The National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program recruits and prepares STEM undergraduates and professionals to become K-12 science and mathematics teachers. Having participated in the program for five years, AAAS helped organize the scholarship program conference in May 2012. More than 600 program participants, from some 225 colleges and universities, attended.

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.

Science NetLinks

Science NetLinks, a Web site produced by AAAS, won three Interactive Media Awards in 2012, earning the Best in Class designation in the education, nonprofit and science/technology categories. The site, which is part of Thinkfinity, a partnership between the Verizon Foundation and ten education organizations including AAAS, offers free resources, interactive features, podcasts and hands-on activities for K-12 teachers, students and families.

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

Children at a community center in Washington, D.C., may have been apprehensive about having science class in July, but after just one day of Science in the Summer, they were asking when they would get more hands-on, inquiry-based experiences.

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.

Page 30 picture of kidsChildren who took part in GlaxoSmithKline’s 2012 Science in the Summer program, administered by AAAS in the greater Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland area, took part in fun, hands-on chemistry activities. [Carla Schaffer]

Science Careers

Published by AAAS, Science Careers offers key resources, news and information to help advance careers in science and technology. Science Careers Jobs offers thousands of industry, academic and government jobs, job e-mail alerts, and a resume/CV database. The Careers Forum offers the opportunity to connect with and receive advice from peers and advisors from industry and academia.

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.