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AAAS Raises its Profile Worldwide
AAAS launched efforts on 1 December to raise its profile with a global National Public Radio (NPR) campaign. The NPR sponsorship is part of a broader set of efforts to enhance AAAS's role as a voice of scientific leadership worldwide. Spots on NPR in the United States, Europe and elsewhere also reflect increasing efforts by the Association to engage new audiences in science and technology issues.
In February 2004, AAAS invites NPR listeners to join hundreds of scientists and journalists from all over the world, who will gather in Seattle, WA, to hear about the latest research regarding all aspects of sciencewhat are the genetic roots of autism; will the surgeon's knife someday be obsolete, when will we be able to grow a third set of teeth?
While the AAAS Annual Meeting offers an important forum for scientists to disseminate their work, it is also an opportunity to focus on the other end of the pipelineby introducing children to the world of science. In partnership with two local Seattle institutions, AAAS is co-sponsoring Family Science Days, a new two-day event that will bring parents and children from traditionally under-served communities directly to the Seattle Convention Center to explore freshwater ecosystems and to investigate the content and properties of soil and to test rocks and minerals for hardness, luster and mineral content.
"Often, these families have little positive experience with the school system, and may be intimidated by 'real science,'" says Amy Hale Program Director for Family Science at the Institute for Systems Biology, and one of the principle organizers of the event. "Science can seem alienating, scary and 'too hard.' Informal science venues spark an early interest in science phenomenon and help change the perception of science as a barrier."
The Institute for Systems Biology (ISB) is a non-profit research institute dedicated to the study and application of systems biology. The ISB is working to redesign K-12 science curriculum so that all students attain high levels of achievement in the sciences. The other Seattle-based institution working on the Family Science Days program is the Pacific Science Center, an independent, not-for-profit educational foundation dedicated to increasing the public's understanding and appreciation of science, mathematics and technology through interactive exhibits and programs.
Hale says that the AAAS Annual Meeting offers the perfect venue for an educational event aimed at children and their parents.
"As a well established entity in the scientific and science education community, AAAS provides an important forum for the sharing of leading edge scientific discovery and education leadership," Hale says. "AAAS is committed to promoting systemic science education reform. AAAS supports science literacy for all through collaborative work such as Project 2061. This project and others provide the framework for cohesive, focused implementation of developmentally appropriate science content throughout the K-12 grades."
Families who come to the afternoon programs on 14-15 February at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, will have a chance to explore the make-up of compost, and to hone their observation skills as they use hand lenses and microscopes to carry out their research. They will also be able to create their own geology field guides, while investigating the properties of rocks and minerals. Most relevant for individuals living in the Pacific northwest, participants will help construct a landscape and test variables of soil composition, deforestation and water, learning what they can do to combat the effects of erosion. Parents will be encouraged to learn what they can do to informally support their children's inquiries.
"Providing increased opportunities for exposure to hands-on inquiry science strengthens critical thinking and problem solving skills," Hale says. "Parent-child activities using simple, everyday materials and questioning strategies give families a time to interact together, while increasing parent confidence in their ability to support their child's learning. Ultimately, these children should have sufficient positive experiences with genuine science concepts at an early age to feel interested and capable of pursuing science related fields as a career, as well as continuing on to become science literate citizens."
1 December 2003