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"Science. It's Everywhere:" Grassroots Campaign
To Present Science Through Daily Experiences
Empowering familiesespecially Hispanic, African American and other diverse communitiesto enhance their children's science learning is the goal of "Science. It's Everywhere," a new grassroots awareness-building effort by AAAS, the science society, with the National Science Foundation (NSF).
"Our message is simple: Science is a part of everyone's life, it is all around us, everyday, and it's fun," says AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner. "Virtually every issue in modern life has some scientific component, and so all children need at least some familiarity with science. Families can encourage learning through everyday activities, and it's actually easy to make science entertaining."
Cooking a meal together, caring for pets, observing insects, and watching plants grow are only a few examples of everyday opportunities for improving understanding of key scientific principles, says Shirley Malcom, head of education and human resources at AAAS.
"Families can make a big difference, simply by taking an interest in how the world works," added Malcom, winner of the prestigious Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences for her lifelong efforts to draw more women and minorities into the sciences. "We don't need expensive resources or specialized knowledge to help stimulate our children's learning. A willingness to share in the excitement of discovery is all it takes. The key is for children to gain an appreciation for learning from the people who are most important in their lives."
"Science should not be intimidating," Leshner says. "It should be for everyone. Help a child count the rings on a tree stump, or identify objects in nature to match different colors. These are such simple exercises. Yet, they convey important basic concepts. And, they show children that the adults in their lives value learning. Gaining new knowledge can and should be fun, and not just for children whose parents can afford science-camp tuition."
Encouraging active engagement in science has long been a goal of the 155-year-old Association: For example, AAAS currently runs the "Science and Everyday Experiences," or SEE program, which helps to mobilize 800 chapters of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, in partnership with the NSF and the Delta Research and Education Foundation (DREF). Through the AAAS/Delta SEE program, Malcom explained, sorority members learn to become informal science educators and organizers for family and community science eventsespecially within African American communities.
The new public-awareness campaign, "Science. It's Everywhere," will be one of many forthcoming AAAS efforts to reach beyond the traditional research community through the Association's Center for Public Engagement in Science and Technology.
Among those efforts is the NSF-funded Partnership for Science Literacy, a growing collaboration of national and local organizations dedicated to supporting improvements in science education. The Partnership's "Science. It's Everywhere" campaign will supplement classroom efforts to help students achieve important benchmarks for science literacy as defined by the AAAS education initiative, Project 2061.
"Outreach to families is a critical step in changing the system," noted Project 2061's Director Jo Ellen Roseman. "Without their help, it will be difficult to bring about the kinds of changes that are needed."
"Science. It's Everywhere" currently involves five diverse U.S. communitiesin Los Angeles, California; Chicago, Illinois; Tampa, Florida; Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and Austin, Texaswill work AAAS to plan outreach events, and to let parents know about the resources available in each region.
In Tampa, for example, some 16 local organizations, from the Museum of Science and Industry and the National Society of Black Engineers to J.P. Morgan Chase, have compiled a list of easy activities for families, with a guide to more information. "Try This!" activities encourage children to find the three "layers" of Florida: sand, clay, and limestone rock. In another activity, children are asked to choose three animals, and then make a new creature from parts of the other three. Still another simple activity lets children find objects in nature that match the size or shape of a part of the bodysay, a leaf shaped like a child's ear, or a branch the size of an arm.
With help from the Advertising Council, public service announcements will bring the "Science. It's Everywhere" messages to the public. Advertisements will direct families to a toll-free telephone number (888-737-2061) and Web site (www.ScienceEverywhere.org), where they can order a free Family Guide to Science booklet and receive other information.
The first regional kickoff events for the "Science. It's Everywhere" program took place on 17 May in Chicago's Jackson Park, which is adjacent to the Museum of Science and Industry on the city's south side, and in Tampa at the Museum of Science and Industry. In Chicago activities had an environmental theme and invited children and their parents to try their hands at such things as soil sampling, gathering ozone data, constructing boats out of recycled materials, and other activities. In Tampa the day featured Flamenco dancing and martial arts performances to demonstrate some basic physics concepts, along with science theater and planetarium shows and a variety of other hands-on science demonstrations conducted by museum staff. For more information about the Chicago event, see www.chias.org/events2.html. For information about the Tampa event, see www.mosi.org.
In addition to AAAS and the NSF, national partners in the "Science. It's Everywhere" program include: the National Science Teachers Association; TryScience.org (sponsored by the New York Hall of Science, the Association of Science and Technology Centers and IBM Corp.); and Oxford University Press. A complete list of all regional participants, can be found at www.ScienceEverywhere.org.
19 May 2003
For more information on the AAAS grassroots campaign, "Science. It's Everywhere," see Web site.