Overview

Throughout America, school systems are involved in K-12 reform efforts to improve teaching and learning of all children. Because the National Science Education Standards call for dramatic changes in teaching and learning, many individuals will need to work together to realize a vision of scientific literacy. Professional societies and their members can make an important contribution to the improvement of K-12 science education.

Scientists recognize the importance of being educators, but too often teachers are expected to carry full responsibility for educating K-12 students. Some agricultural scientists are concerned about the lack of attention to agriculture, food and the environment in the science-content descriptions of the National Science Education Standards . Teachers indicate that they want to learn more about investigative processes used routinely by researchers. Although scientists are becoming involved in reform efforts, scientists and educators acknowledge that more could be done to enhance their collaboration. Those issues and more related to science reform need clarification. To facilitate that process, the National Research Council convened a forum of educators and professional societies broadly associated with food, agriculture, and the environment to exchange views on the role of scientists in improving science education.

Scientist-teacher partnership building can be an effective mechanism for making improvements in science education. Because teachers and scientists come from two widely different cultures, this divergence can inhibit mutual contact. Nevertheless, scientist-educator collaborations should be encouraged for reform efforts. Scientists can provide teachers with an understanding of scientific inquiry and content knowledge; teachers can help scientists understand learning processes



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--> Overview Throughout America, school systems are involved in K-12 reform efforts to improve teaching and learning of all children. Because the National Science Education Standards call for dramatic changes in teaching and learning, many individuals will need to work together to realize a vision of scientific literacy. Professional societies and their members can make an important contribution to the improvement of K-12 science education. Scientists recognize the importance of being educators, but too often teachers are expected to carry full responsibility for educating K-12 students. Some agricultural scientists are concerned about the lack of attention to agriculture, food and the environment in the science-content descriptions of the National Science Education Standards . Teachers indicate that they want to learn more about investigative processes used routinely by researchers. Although scientists are becoming involved in reform efforts, scientists and educators acknowledge that more could be done to enhance their collaboration. Those issues and more related to science reform need clarification. To facilitate that process, the National Research Council convened a forum of educators and professional societies broadly associated with food, agriculture, and the environment to exchange views on the role of scientists in improving science education. Scientist-teacher partnership building can be an effective mechanism for making improvements in science education. Because teachers and scientists come from two widely different cultures, this divergence can inhibit mutual contact. Nevertheless, scientist-educator collaborations should be encouraged for reform efforts. Scientists can provide teachers with an understanding of scientific inquiry and content knowledge; teachers can help scientists understand learning processes

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--> and diversity of students. Participants suggested that partnership building is a means to support long-term interest in science education reform. There was some discussion that agricultural and food-system literacy is essential and should be promoted by the societies. Agricultural sciences address not only production agriculture but the whole food and fiber system (from farm to table). Food is a common denominator for all children and is a useful way to get children's attention about agriculture. In developing agricultural examples for curriculum materials, collaborators should incorporate basic learning outcomes defined by the content standards. While research is important to gain new knowledge, scientists have an obligation to make their knowledge accessible to the educational community. The skills of being a good communicator need to be promoted along with those of being a good scientist and a good technician. Agricultural scientists can help the public appreciate science by communicating with students and teachers using clear and understandable language. Scientists can enhance education in K-12 science classrooms through their local school district and can become more connected to their communities. Through scientist-teacher collaborations, scientists can: serve as a resource for content for teachers; rethink science fairs and classroom assessment; provide extra hands in classroom demonstrations; connect the teacher to the world of professional science; communicate your excitement about science; model science as inquiry; and foster scientific collegial interactions with educators. Scientists also can participate in K-12 science education reform through their professional societies. Forum participants can: inform their staffs and other societies of the National Science Education Standards; increase the visibility of K-12 education among their members and at annual society meetings; invite K-12 educators to society meetings; obtain joint membership in K-12 educators' societies; and recognize and award members for involvement in K-12 education. Participants recognized that coordinated efforts among disciplines and across societies could enhance outreach efforts. The need for an umbrella group to improve collaboration among the various societies was discussed in-depth. Participants suggested that a coordinating mechanism could increase the impact on K-12 science education.

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--> The implications of the science standards on higher education are potentially enormous. Even though K-12 education was the focus of this forum, it was suggested that reforms in K-16 education should also be discussed. Today's high school students are tomorrow's college students. Participants questioned whether undergraduate instructors will be able to meet the needs of the new generation of high school students trained under the new National Science Education Standards . Incentives will be needed to encourage scientists to get involved in reform efforts in K-12 classrooms. Although scientists might be inspired to get involved in service activities, many institutions take a dim view of this. Requirements for promotion and tenure provide disincentives for these interested scientists to give the time required to serve the reform effort. Therefore, incentives need to be considered at the university level. As members of professional societies and faculties, scientists need to communicate the importance of educational reform to other faculty members, department heads, and deans. A new era in education is beginning, and business cannot proceed as usual if scientists expect to have an impact. Scientific societies have performed a broad range of services in higher education, adult learning, and provision of technologies. Professional societies must now think about laying the foundation of early student learning in science and emphasize K-12 education.