Science Education Intro
Educational Outreach and the Polar Research Community

Mission Possible: Increase understanding and appreciation of, and investment and involvement in, science, in everyone -- in ways that leverage what the polar research community already is doing.

What Is This Site About?
Why is Educational Outreach Important?
Why Should We, as Scientists, Bother?
What Will Our Investment Get Us?

A Few Thoughts Before You Jump In.......

Opportunities for Involvement

Polar Research Community Outreach Projects

Disclaimer about everything and anything included here

What Is This Site About?
This Web page is intended to assist the Polar Research Community in identifying and leveraging opportunities for integrating educational outreach into their research projects.
Educational outreach is defined in the broadest of terms -- it includes students of all ages, teachers, researchers, policy makers, and the general public (defined as our adult population). The links to opportunities present some ideas for creating a successful experience, discuss some pitfalls, identify resources, and offer connections to existing program models.

Why is Educational Outreach Important -- Especially in the Sciences?
There is a need to increase scientific understanding among the public.

A few numbers from the National Science Foundation-supported survey for
Science & Engineering Indicators 2000, as reported in the NSF PR 00-45 (NSB 00-131):

".....The vast majority of Americans say that science and technology are making their lives better....." However "..... only 17 percent of respondents ..... described themselves as well informed about new scientific discoveries and the use of new inventions and technologies. 30% said they were poorly informed....."
".....Answering a series of 20 questions designed to test basic knowledge, only 50 percent of Americans know how long it takes Earth to circle the sun, and most still can't correctly describe in their own words some basic scientific terms, including molecules, the Internet, and DNA....."
".....The scientific process isn't well understood either. Only 21 percent of those surveyed were able to explain what it means to study something scientifically, just over half understood probability, and only a third knew how an experiment is conducted....."
"..... Most of what Americans know about science comes from television and newspapers....." And ".....the belief in the pseudoscience is commonplace in the U.S....." and can be traced to the entertainment industry.
and from the Highlights of the report, ".....One-quarter of Americans understand the nature of scientific inquiry well enough to be able to make informed judgments about the scientific basis of results reported in the media....."

A few numbers from the classroom:
Over the next five years, 200,000 qualified math and science teachers will be needed in the classroom.
Currently, the majority of math and science teachers have taught less than 5 years.
Many math and science teachers are not certified in the field they are teaching.
Why Should We, as Scientists, Bother?
Scientists are the holders of current, accurate scientific knowledge -- we know stuff.
The information has to be shared -- and shared well -- by US because no one else can.

We also know that science is interesting, exciting, fun, challenging, relevant to society, and really, really cool.
So.......why doesn't anyone else know this? We are the ones who can transfer ownership of science to the public by increasing access to scientific thought and discovery. We can do this through a variety of vehicles and in collaboration with partners such as journalists, teachers, science educators, etc.

It is part of NSF's mission - which means it is part of our mission if we wish to continue NSF's (and tax payer) investment in our science.
An NSF strategic goal is excellence in U.S. science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education at all levels - this encompasses development of professionally trained educators to ensure excellence in the classroom for every learner and support of informal science education to maintain public interest in and awareness of scientific and technological developments. All of this feeds into a future with a current and competent, technology-savvy community of researchers and workforce. According to the National Science Foundation's GPRA Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 1997 - 2003, a specific goal (Goal 4) is ".....Improved achievement in mathematics and science skills needed by all Americans.....Proficiency in essential skills and understanding of basic concepts in mathematics and science will be critical to the earning power of individuals and to the nation's economic competitiveness and quality of life in the 21st century....." The key investment strategies target K-12 students, undergraduate students, teachers, parents, and the broader public. (By the way, in the merit review criteria for NSF grant proposals, this is Criterion 2 "What are the broader impacts of the proposed activity?" How well does the activity advance discovery and understanding while promoting teaching, training, and learning? Will the results be disseminated broadly to advance scientific and technological understanding?).

All of the above does NOT mean that every researcher needs to devote two thirds of their lives to working in an elementary school science classroom. Research and education should be integrated, as defined within NSF's goals. From the merit review criteria ".....institutions provide abundant opportunities where individuals may concurrently assume responsibilities as researchers, educators, and students, and where all can engage in joint efforts that infuse education with the excitement of discovery and enrich research through the diversity of learning perspectives....." And there are many, many paths for this integration.

The Office of Polar Programs has invested deeply in a diversity of educational outreach efforts within the community. These include curriculum development programs, REU experiences, teacher research experiences, graduate research, and projects for the general public including the authors and artists program. OPP's investment reflects their belief in the benefit of integrating research and education.

What Will Our Investment Get Us?
A public with a strong understanding of science, the process of science, and the relevance of science to society is a public that will make more careful policy decisions and will support continued scientific research (= a beautiful world and job security).

Students with an interest in, and excitement about, science will value science. These are the future voters and major stake-holders -- and in some cases, graduate students and scientists (= a beautiful world and scientists as a renewable resource).

A Few Thoughts Before You Jump In.......
There are many opportunities for involvement and there is plenty of room for new ventures. Before initiating an educational outreach project or program, determine:

Why you want to get involved in outreach and what you want to do. Scale your investment to your commitment and interests. If you are not interested in outreach, but feel the need to have a component, match it very closely to your research. For example, connect with a journalist and let them do the heavy work in reporting to the public; you provide only content oversight. Alternatively, have a student design a small Web site for the public about your research; again, you provide only content oversight.

Often researchers get involved in outreach because they have children in the school system and they are interested in the quality of classroom education; visiting the classroom, being a resource to the school, helping to review curriculum, inviting a teacher to parcticipate in your science, etc., might be the most satisfying investments. Other researchers want to increase public science literacy; developing popular science arcticles or general public Web pages, getting involved in local museums or science centers, etc., are good paths to meet this desire. Still others wish to ensure the quality of up-and-coming graduate students; REUs and mentoring might be most appropriate ways to meet these goals.

How much you can really invest. Take a hard look. What can you invest in terms of resources (human e.g., you, graduate students; materials; funds)? Outreach can range in time/resource investment from providing data sets, to creating a Web site for the public, to designing a curriculum. Best to define this part well so that the project is completed and the audience is satisfied. If your investment cannot match what you want to do, start over. Start small. See how it goes. Ramp up after you collect some data if you are still enthusiastic.

The best fit between the research that you do (broad or specific) and the target project/audience. A bit of honesty is needed here - and perhaps a "check-in" with the intended audience. Is what you propose REALLY appropriate to the audience? Two options exist: work to make your research appropriate to the audience, or change the audience.

The ADDED value of what you are suggesting. Is there a need for what you propose by the target audience? Nothing is more frustrating than creating something that will not be used.... and nothing is more satisfying than collaborating on a project that is valued by its audience and causes real change!

What else is out there. Are you re-inventing the wheel? Don't - there is plenty of room for meaningful and innovative projects. Are there other good projects, programs, products on which you can build / connect? Do. Everyone wins!

The parcticipants needed to make the project successful. TOP-DOWN THINKING DOES NOT WORK! If you come up with a great idea that you want to share with an audience, collaborate with that audience from the start. Really listen to their ideas and suggestions -- they know the realities of the classroom or museum, or where ever your idea is going and you probably don't. For example, if you are going to develop materials for students, collaborate with teachers of the appropriate discipline and background to determine what the students are doing, what they need, how to best transfer the needed message. If you are going to design materials for museums, get to know the audience, understand how the materials will be used, and work with their science educators. Collaboration - real collaboration - is key to success.

Opportunities and Ideas for Involvement
Working with the Media This link leads to AGU's Media Services page, where you can download an exhaustive, but helpful, guide entitled "You and the Media: A researcher's guide for dealing successfully with the news media." Note - the link on the AGU page is easy to miss.

Project Web Pages

Public Presentations

Visiting Classrooms

Teacher Research Experiences

Research Experiences for Undergraduates

Getting Your Students Involved

Connecting with Museums and Science Centers

Developing Classroom Curriculum

Communicating from the Field

Other Ideas

Funding Opportunities

Polar Research Community Outreach Projects
Send a brief description of your outreach project and it will be posted here. Include also, if you have them, a URL, digital logo, and contact information for those who may want to know more.

Please note: The ideas and materials presented here often are the result of discussions with many teacher, student, and research colleagues; these individuals deserve credit for everything that works, the author is responsible for everything that does not work. This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of ideas or projects. It is intended as a starting point. New ideas, suggestions for changes, recommendations for additions, etc. always are welcome and can be mailed to