On November 23, President Obama launched “Educate to Innovate,” a nationwide effort for increasing student achievement in science and math education over the next 10 years.
Students, Teachers to Benefit From National Lab Day
National Lab Day is an unprecedented, nationwide effort to bring more high-quality, hands-on, discovery-based lab experiences to middle and high school students. It is more than just a day: It’s a nationwide movement to support science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in our schools. It is teachers working with community volunteers and communities rallying around teachers. It’s all of us working together to give our kids access to well-equipped labs and to professional scientists, engineers, and mathematicians who can inspire them.
What is a lab? We define “lab” quite broadly: a place where students can explore, experiment, test, and get their hands dirty and their minds engaged. It’s not just test tubes and beakers. A lab could be a laptop to a software designer, a mountaintop to a geologist, a computer link to a distant particle accelerator to a physicist, or a factory floor to an industrial engineer. It’s a place where hands-on lessons in science, engineering, and technology can be designed to happen, or where math can come alive, and it could be anywhere in the physical or virtual world.
How does National Lab Day work? Lab Day focuses on the needs of participating teachers, so activities will vary from classroom to classroom. Teachers set the agenda. Local communities of support, called hubs, consisting of volunteers—university students, scientists, engineers, professionals and, more broadly, community members—will work with teachers to support their objectives. Lab Day may well culminate with a set of events on a day next May, but the expectation is that Lab Day hubs will do much more. We hope they will mobilize citizens to build ongoing, long-term collaborations with their schools to improve labs and discovery-based science experiences for all kids.
What will teachers do? Teachers are the experts who know their students and their classrooms best. Whether it’s additional lab equipment, personal mentoring from a scientist, tech support, help with a lesson plan, or just an extra set of hands for a class project, teachers know what they need to improve students’ hands-on learning experiences. Teachers will organize and coordinate the hub of Lab Day volunteers for their classroom. They will start the process on the National Lab Day website (www.nationallabday.org) by describing the goals for their hubs; later, they will use the site to schedule face-to-face meetings and events. Volunteers will offer their time and resources through the website.
What will volunteers do? Volunteers—university students, scientists, engineers, medical professionals, and other community members—will engage in activities to strengthen laboratory experiences in their local communities or in outreach to other high-need schools. They might, for example, install software or identify useful web resources, fix and find equipment, implement hands-on projects, start a fundraising effort to buy needed supplies, help with science fairs, mentor a student, chaperone field trips, provide internship opportunities, donate materials, help with lesson plans, or be an advisor to an after-school program. The hope is that for many of these volunteers, this will be just the first step—or the next step—in an ongoing involvement with their local schools and teachers.
For more information on how you can join the National Lab Day effort, visit www.nationallabday.org.
The campaign features partnerships among leading companies, foundations, nonprofits, and science and engineering societies. The president announced several initiatives, including five public–private partnerships (listed below); a commitment by key leaders such as Sally Ride (the first female astronaut), Craig Barrett (former chair, Intel), Ursula Burns (CEO, Xerox), Glenn Britt (CEO, Time Warner Cable), and Antonio Perez (CEO, Eastman Kodak) to increase the scale, scope, and impact of private and philanthropic support for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; and an annual science fair at the White House showcasing student winners of national competitions in fields such as science, technology, and robotics. Obama also identified three overarching priorities for STEM education: increasing STEM literacy so all students can think critically in those areas; improving the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations; and expanding STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.
“Reaffirming and strengthening America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century,” said Obama. “That’s why I am committed to making the improvement of STEM education over the next decade a national priority.”
Educate to Innovate’s Public–Private Partnerships
- National Lab Day, Bringing Hands-on Learning to Every Student. National Lab Day is a grassroots effort to bring hands-on learning to students, and to build communities of support for STEM teachers. The effort is a partnership among science and engineering societies representing more than 2.5 million STEM professionals and almost four million educators, with strong financial support from the Hidary Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and industry partners. NSTA is a key sponsor of the National Lab Day partnership. (See the sidear for more information on National Lab Day.)
- Time Warner Cable’s “Connect a Million Minds” Campaign. Time Warner Cable, in partnership with FIRST Robotics and the Coalition for Science After School, is launching a campaign to connect more than one million students to highly engaging after-school STEM activities that already exist in their area. Go to connectamillionminds.com for more information.
- Discovery Communications’ “Be the Future” Campaign. Discovery Communications, in partnership with leading research universities and federal agencies, is launching a five-year, $150 million cash and in-kind “Be the Future” campaign. The campaign’s content, which will reach more than 99 million homes, includes a public service ad campaign across Discovery’s 13 U.S. networks, a dedicated commercial-free educational kids block on the Science Channel, and programming on the “grand challenges” of the 21st century, such as Discovery’s landmark 60-episode Curiosity: The Questions of Our Life series, scheduled to debut in January 2011. Discovery Education will also create rich, interactive educational content to be delivered free to approximately 60,000 schools, 35 million students, and 1 million educators. In addition, Discovery Education will partner with the Siemens Foundation to create STEM Connect, a national education resource for teachers.
- Sesame Street’s Early STEM Literacy Initiative. Sesame Street, in partnership with PNC Bank, plans a major focus on science and math programming for young children and a $7.5 million investment in Educate to Innovate. Sesame Street’s current season began with a new curriculum, “My World Is Green and Growing,” which will be part of a two-year science initiative designed to increase positive attitudes toward nature, deepen children’s knowledge of the natural world, and encourage respect and care for the environment. Twenty of the 26 new episodes will focus on STEM: 13 specifically on science and the others on math.
- National STEM Game Design Competitions. The MacArthur Foundation, Sony Computer Entertainment America, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and its partners (the Information Technology Industry Council, the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, and Microsoft) are holding nationwide competitions to design the most compelling STEM-related video games for children and youth. The competitions include the 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition, a $2 million annual effort supported by the MacArthur Foundation to advance the most innovative approaches to learning through games, social networks, and mobile devices.