Sustaining Community Support for Science Education

The National Science Education Standards recognizes that a broad base of community support will bring about long-term improvement in science education. Professional societies should communicate with other community organizations that promote K-12 science education. Such organizations include parents, K-12 school districts, civic organizations, community colleges and universities, science-rich institutions, and industrial partners. Scientists, as individuals and representatives of agricultural professional societies, can play a role in science education reform.

This section is divided into three parts. First, strategies to link professional societies with communities are identified. Second, an excellent example of community involvement in implementation of the science standards is described. Finally, steps to sustain a science education program are summarized.

Linking Professional Societies with Communities

Societies can increase their impact on reform by exploring opportunities to link with organizations beyond the scientific community. Forum participants identified some ideas:

  • form focus groups to help societies determine community needs. For example, one society expressed frustration over their lack of influence on proper nutrition information in schools;
  • gain support for inquiry-based education from other agricultural organi-


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--> Sustaining Community Support for Science Education The National Science Education Standards recognizes that a broad base of community support will bring about long-term improvement in science education. Professional societies should communicate with other community organizations that promote K-12 science education. Such organizations include parents, K-12 school districts, civic organizations, community colleges and universities, science-rich institutions, and industrial partners. Scientists, as individuals and representatives of agricultural professional societies, can play a role in science education reform. This section is divided into three parts. First, strategies to link professional societies with communities are identified. Second, an excellent example of community involvement in implementation of the science standards is described. Finally, steps to sustain a science education program are summarized. Linking Professional Societies with Communities Societies can increase their impact on reform by exploring opportunities to link with organizations beyond the scientific community. Forum participants identified some ideas: form focus groups to help societies determine community needs. For example, one society expressed frustration over their lack of influence on proper nutrition information in schools; gain support for inquiry-based education from other agricultural organi-

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--> Box 3 The Impact of Scientists Paul Williams, University of Wisconsin "Every elementary teacher can amplify what you find exciting about science or what you do for 20 to 30 kids per year; over the [teacher's] lifetime, that translates into hundreds. If you are a high-school teacher, that increases to as many as 100 to 125 per year and thousands in a teacher's life. That's just part of the amplification system; imagine if you can get your messages and the excitement you feel for science to the teachers of the teachers. These are the professors of science education in schools and colleges of education. Each of them may teach from 30 to 130 teachers of science per year. Now we're talking about compound interest!"   Number of Children Influenced   Relationship of Scientist in Science Experience 1 year 30 years • Scientist mentors student research 1 30 • Scientist visits school class 25 750 • Elementary teacher has science experience 25 750 • Secondary teacher has science experience 100 3,000 • Biology education professor who teaches     — 20 elementary teachers per year for 30 years 15,000 450,000 — 10 secondary teachers per year for 30 years 30,000 900,000 • Coalition of educators and scientists influences 20 biology educators who each teach for 30 years     — 20 elementary teachers per year 300,000 9,000,000 — 10 secondary teachers per year 600,000 18,000,000 SOURCE: Paul Williams, University of Wisconsin. zations, such as the Cooperative Extension Service, 4-H Clubs, and Future Farmers of America; partner with local industry representatives to increase the support for science and technology education of students who could be employed by these industries in the future; involve local civic organizations, such as the Rotary Club or the Kiwanis Club, in activities such as math and science nights presented with the Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs).

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--> The Impact of Community Outreach on Education Patricia Hoben Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, Minneapolis Communities that develop networks can disseminate resources to educators more broadly and efficiently. Patricia Hoben, research director at Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, described the dramatic results of having a community-wide outreach program in Minneapolis. The program maximized its impact on education by involving community institutions early in the process. The first step was to identify representatives of corporations, colleges, and universities who were involved in outreach. "These people were brought to the table to help develop local standards and plan for a revitalized science program in the Minneapolis public schools. At the same time, they became knowledgeable of activities that are responsive to teachers' needs. The group was awestruck at their potential power. "Another aspect of this outreach is figuring out how to maximize the impact of a community institution. Each organization has invested their time and energy in developing a product, such as an in-service activity, curriculum supplement, field trip, or museum exhibit. The developers want as many people as possible to see and use it. "We have gone to corporations and discussed how they could fund programs which are consistent with teachers' needs. What we are trying to do is find ways to alleviate the burden of individual teachers in finding resources by making these kinds of materials and activities known to the whole population. In this case, Minneapolis has 90 schools, 60 of which are elementary schools; we have 3,000 teachers and 44,000 students. Our goal is to give all of those individuals and institutions access to what's available through those institutions. Our community institutions are really receptive to working together as long as they can retain their autonomy and meet organizational objectives. "Many other activities exist in the Twin Cities area outside of what has been discussed, such as school lectures, class visits, and adopt-a-school programs. There are summer institute offerings and individual resource centers outside the schools. It may be beneficial to coordinate all these activities. Our goal is to avoid creating an institution which would require funding from local supporters. This would create conflicts, and we would have to compete for resources. We see our role as more like a catalyst that does not get used up in the reaction. We're really at a very early stage of this process."

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--> Steps to Sustain a Science Education Program Michael Klentschy Superintendent, El Centro School District, El Centro, California Michael Klentschy defined six points to sustain a science education program: "The school board has to believe that science education reform is their highest priority. It is worth noting that these school-board members are usually elected and they have two goals: (1) to serve the community and (2) to get re-elected. Develop a broad base of support in the community. As more people become involved in developing and implementing a program, community support will become stronger and the more likely the program will be sustained. Get the buy-in from the teachers. Make sure they have a sense of ownership of the program, otherwise it's not going to be sustained. Educate parents. They have different memories of school science. No longer are we giving out grades on lab notebooks or handing out textbooks. They need to understand these changes. You can do that by involving them in science nights. That builds tremendous support with your advisory councils, your PTAs, PTSAs, and all of the other groups that are involved. Involve the media and promote the positive things going on in our schools. Don't let your program get static; let the materials and curriculum evolve. Do that by having the science community and the education community work together in science education reform."