News: News Archives
AAAS Partnership for Science Literacy Helps Parents to Help Their Kids
Three years ago, a series of focus groups and polls gave staff at AAAS's Project 2061 a surprising insight into parents' attitudes about science education. The parents, many of them African-American and Latino, knew their children loved science classes but believed that reading and math were far more important to their children's future success.
The findings presented both a challenge and an opportunityand led to the creation of the Partnership for Science Literacy, a program designed to get parents more involved in encouraging their kids' interest in science. Today, under the slogan "Science. It's Everywhere," the program is making inroads in cities across the United States.
The Partnership's public service announcements have appeared in National Geographic and Parents magazine, and broadcasts have aired on WRDZ-AM in Chicago. AAAS and Partnership museums in five cites have distributed thousands of the guidebooks and brought hundreds of parents and their children to informal science-education events this year.
In September, the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Public Relations Society of America awarded a certificate of excellence to AAAS and the Element Agency for crafting the program's message, its multilingual Web site (www.tryscience.org/parents/parent.html), and its outreach campaign.
"This outreach campaign has given Project 2061 a great opportunity to focus on parents and their role in their children's science learning," said Jo Ellen Roseman, director of the project. "It's clear that parents want to be involvedwhether at school, in their neighborhoods, or onlineand there are great resources available for them to do that. Bringing all of these elements together in ways that truly support children's science literacy is an exciting challenge for us."
The Partnership for Science Literacy was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. After laying the groundwork for the program, Roseman's staff and their AAAS colleagues in Education and Human Resources signed on science centers in five cites as the chief partners: the Austin (Texas) Children's Museum; the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa, Florida; the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; the Discovery Center of Science and Technology in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania; and the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.
The zoo was one of several Chicago science centers and museumsincluding the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Chicago Park District and the Museum of Science & Industryinvolved in early planning for the Partnership, said Bert Davis, a veterinarian and the zoo's vice president of education.
"We get over 3 million visitors a year at the zoo, and you see in them a broad-brush illustration of what America is," Davis said. "But there are still millions of people who we don't reach.... There's a tremendous opportunity for learning, and it's all right here in our own backyard."
To promote the Partnership program, the zoo and other partner organizations held an outdoor science celebration last spring. The organizers reached into Chicago's African-American, Latino, and Asian communities through churches, political leadership, local YMCAs, and boys and girls clubs. The result: Despite rainy weather, an estimated 600 people came to Jackson Park behind the city's famed Museum of Science and Industry for the Partnership for Science Literacy celebration.
A similar event was held at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles. National parks officials, the Aquarium of the Pacific, and California State University professors held workshops for an audience drawn from adults who are in English as a Second Language programs and their families.
"This is an audience that's really important here, in our neighborhood in particular and in Southern California as a whole," said Megan Walsh, the museum's director of education. "This is just a good opportunity for us to further develop that relationship." And, she added, the mission of the Partnership "is similar to our mission at the museumhelping to inspire wonder, discovery, and responsibility. Science is all around us in our natural and cultural world. Science is everywhere."
Edward W. Lempinen
9 December 2004