Eating Our Own

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Last week, an article was published in STAT magazine about how scientists need to do more outreach. A few exasperated tweets complaining about the article’s tone and content soon morphed into a full-on hate-fest, with buckets of vitriol raining down on an innocent graduate student who had dared to try and expand on the article’s premise. The attacks, led by a parade of well-known science communication personalities, went way beyond the bounds of civil debate. As someone who uses Twitter to engage in these types of academic discussions all the time, I was angry with the entire situation but I wasn’t sure how to respond.

Now that I’ve had some time to think about things, I’m still angry. I’m angry with the “venerable” online science community. MY supposed community. My community of peers who are actively involved in doing and promoting science outreach and communication. Is this the way to draw more people into doing outreach and communication? By shutting them down when they try to engage? By using their naiveté and inexperience as weapons against them?

I find this entire course of action by those who chose to denigrate and shame a person who was genuinely looking for information and guidance disgusting. Even worse, it is entirely antithetical to the goals of this movement around public engagement with science that we are all, collectively, trying to engender and support and promote.

We in the science outreach community already have a hard enough time getting scientists to spend some of their scant free time out of the lab doing outreach and communicating about their research. Not when their adviser is demanding to see experimental results. Not when their department chair is expecting them to be securing a steady stream of research funding. Not when their dean is holding a tenure decision precipitously over their head. Now we have to overcome the barrier of having those who are already “in the know” telling them they are doing it wrong? Telling them that they need to get a Ph.D. in outreach before they even start? When did this become a situation of us versus them, where some communicators and outreachers are more equal than others?

Full disclosure- I happen to know this graduate student. She’s taken our online training course, “The Art of Science Communication.” She now volunteers her precious time (as a junior graduate student) to help teach the course. She does outreach and wants to do more. She’s walking the walk, and I want to help her do it. Because that’s my job — getting scientists involved with outreach.

I want every scientist to communicate. To engage. To throw off the stigma and tradition and stereotype of the loner scientist locked away in the lab. To put themselves out there in public. I’ve heard over and over that not every scientist should be a communicator. I could not disagree more. Every scientist should be a communicator. Communication and outreach should be compulsory for a scientific career. I’ve dedicated myself to help every scientist to communicate. I work every day to help pave that way. I want the entire world to see who scientists are and what they do.

In two months, we are all going to march for science. Are we going to start deciding who can attend that event, who is allowed to speak for science? Or are we going to use this opportunity, this incredible platform, to engage with everyone we can, gain support and show what science is and how it’s used?

Let’s stop the pointless bickering and online yelling and start facing the same direction. Because if we don’t all stand together, we’ll fall apart.

“Meet the BioArtists” recap

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Art and science are intimately intertwined. A great example of the intersection of these two topics is the BioArt contest run by our colleagues at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology [FASEB]. Since 2012, FASEB has handed out awards to the most inspiring, creative artistic images of scientific phenomena, ranging from fungal infections to nutrient uptake by plants to neuronal cell signaling.

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BioArt images were displayed on the walls of the Karl Strauss Brewery in downtown San Diego

Though scientists may be accustomed to such stunning images (and videos), the public at-large has traditionally not experienced the same level of exposure.To bring BioArt to the masses in a truly public venue, the ASBMB recently sponsored “Meet the BioArtists ” at the Karl Strauss Brewery in downtown San Diego. Images submitted by previous BioArt contest winners were printed and hung on display in the brewery for several weeks in April, enveloping patrons with plant stem cells, nerve fibers and even the Ebola virus.

While the brewery staff made a valiant effort to point out the science-themed art, it was difficult (if not impossible) for any of the viewers to make the connection between the image hanging on the wall in front of them and the science that it was inspired by. This passivity is one of the problems with art. Engagement happens only at the discretion of the audience, removing the face-to-face interactions that lead to deeper understanding: you don’t get to ask Picasso how he painted that picture, or Mozart why he wrote that musical piece. Given the overarching goal of science outreach to connect scientists and non-scientists, it is important for such events to take place in situations that allow for direct interactions between the two groups.

Nat Prunet describes his winning BioArt image for attendees

So to add that extra touch of engagement, on the evening of April 5 BioArtist winners Bryan Jones, Nat Prunet and Clarence Wigfall came to the brewery to present their science-themed works of art for the local San Diego community, as well as attendees of the EB conference. Donning white lab coats, the BioArtists mingled with customers, talked about their motivations and artistic inspirations, and described the science behind their images for nearly four hours. The constant flow of engaged visitors coming to talk science on a Tuesday night was impressive, especially considering that a Padres baseball game was taking place a few blocks away. Outreach and engagement, all at once.

After the success of the “Meet the BioArtists” event, the ASBMB is contemplating how to continue bringing science art to the public by potentially developing a BioArtists road show that can visit cities across the country. After all, these days everyone deserves to get a chance to interact with art (and science).

Pictures from the event can be found here.

Meet the BioArtists

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The Experimental Biology (EB) meeting has been a frequent visitor to San Diego. And every time we come to town, the ASBMB Public Outreach Committee puts on a unique outreach event that brings science to the local community. At EB2012 in San Diego, we organized (in conjunction with the San Diego Biotechnology Network) a science-themed tweet-up at the Mission Brewery. Two years later, we worked with the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center to put on an interactive science café at Southpaw Social Club that gave attendees a hands-on look at FoldIt, the protein folding video game.

So how do we top ourselves in 2016? This time around, we’ll be focusing on art. Anyone who has worked in a lab will immediately appreciate the beauty of the natural world and the creative, artistic ways that researchers showcase the wonders of science. To highlight these efforts, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has, since 2012, sponsored the BioArt competition, which invites scientists to share “captivating, high-resolution images and videos representing cutting edge, 21st century biomedical and life science research.”

Ou 2015

One of the winning images from the 2015 FASEB BioArt contest, by Xiawei Ou, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) and ACH Research Institute, and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR

Now for the first time, we are bringing BioArt to EB. Winning images from the past several years will be displayed on the walls of the Karl Strauss Brewery, one of downtown San Diego’s hottest brew pubs. Even cooler, on the night of April 5, we will have several of the actual BioArt winners there in-person to talk about their entries and how they were motivated to translate their research into art. This will be a great chance to see for yourself the intersection of art and STEM (commonly referred to by the acronym “STEAM”).

So if you’re in San Diego looking for something to do on a Tuesday night and want to see what science has to offer, come on down and join us! As anyone who has come to one of our outreach events before can attest, you are guaranteed to have a fun time.

 

K-12 STEM Outreach: A New HOPE(S)

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Developing instructional STEM curricula for deaf students. Using sports to teach STEM concepts to high schoolers. Organizing a C.S.I.-themed research project for 5th graders. The eclectic range of projects being undertaken by this year’s batch of awardees from the ASBMB Hands-on Opportunities to Promote Engagement with Science (HOPES) seed grant program showcases the myriad creative approaches to improve STEM education for K-12 students across the country. In 2015, the seed grant program received 27 applications, of which a total of nine were ultimately funded. To read more about this year’s HOPES recipients, click here.

Now in its fifth year, the goal of the HOPES program, which offers grants of up to $2000 for STEM partnerships between academic researchers and K-12 teachers, is to foster the development of sustained, mutually beneficial outreach partnerships that will enable educators and community leaders to leverage the resources and expertise of scientists from local colleges, universities, and industry as a means for engaging students and members of the public in active, stimulating, and informative STEM experiential learning activities, regardless of their background or level of experience.

This year saw the introduction of two new twists to the HOPES program. Awardees are now able to apply for a second year of funding from ASBMB, in order to help ensure the sustainability of their project. One of the main drawbacks pointed out by previous recipients was that, while the funds provided by HOPES were great for setting up a pilot project, ensuring that this project continued on in subsequent years was difficult without guaranteed funding support. Tacking on a second year to the award will help alleviate this issue by providing a short yet significant level of sustainability, thus allowing for buy-in from other potential stakeholders such as local companies and private foundations, or even school systems.

A second twist was holding the annual HOPES workshop outside of the confines of its traditional home within the Experimental Biology (EB) meeting, in order to increase the geographic diversity of HOPES participants beyond San Diego and Boston, which have between them hosted the past four EB meetings. This year, HOPES PI Regina Stevens-Truss led the interactive workshop, in which attendees hear from previous HOPES grant recipients and get a chance to network with potential partners, during the ASBMB Transforming Undergraduate Education in Molecular Life Sciences special symposium, held at Missouri Western University in St. Joseph, MO.

Moving forward, the HOPES committee (Dr. Stevens-Truss, Dr. Peter Kennelly [Virginia Tech] and Dr. Ray Sweet [Janssen Pharmaceuticals, retired]) aims to expand the reach of the HOPES program by presenting the workshop in a diverse set of geographic locations and venues, including  meetings such as those for the National Science Teachers Association and National Association of Biology Teachers. The committee is also collaborating with a professional evaluator to assess the efficacy of the programs supported by the seeds grants, as well as the HOPES program overall. Moreover, the committee is constructing a public interactive network of former recipients, current awardees and potential applicants that will provide a platform for sharing of information, ideas, resources and opportunities. Currently included on this website are project descriptions and activity manuals that can be used by anyone to help enhance the STEM experience for their students.

As a model for improving the K-12 STEM educational experience, five years of the HOPES program has proven an unqualified success. The next five years promise even more.

Click here to see data from the past five years of the HOPES program

 

SciTrek- Helping students learn “How Science Works”

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Mealworms are ~1 inch long larva with a slightly hardened exterior to help them burrow underneath rocks, logs, or in stored grains, but how do mealworms find food and a comfortable environment? To find the answer, 3rd graders at numerous elementary schools in the Santa Barbara, California area worked with staff and volunteers from the UCSB SciTrek program, a K-12 science outreach venture created by Dr. Norbert Reich to improve science education in 2nd-8th grade classrooms by bringing the resources, people, and modules in order to help teachers.

SciTrek_1 The members of SciTrek have created modules that combine a fun activity and test subject (in this case worms!) with learning how to be a scientist.  Each module balances the need for efficient classroom management and meeting specific Next Generation Science Standards with the freedom for students to reason and think critically about each aspect of doing science.

For the mealworm module, SciTrek members worked with a number of local area teachers to develop an interactive, 6 lesson module to test what factors affect the direction a mealworm travels, in order to explore the role of food, moisture, light, and surface texture on mealworm habitat and health.

After learning about and making observations on the mealworms, students were guided through developing testable hypotheses with controllable variables. Many hypothSciTrek_2eses were different from each other, with no “plug and chug” protocol stifling scientific inquiry. For example, “If there are more than 6 mealworms in one pill container slot at time point 0, then the mealworms will travel away from each other until there are 3 mealworms per container slot at time point 5 minutes.” Students formulated an experimental plan and ran the experiment, making sure they conducted each trial multiple times so that they could calculate elementary statistics and gauge confidence in their results. Finally, students analyzed their data and presented their findings at a classroom poster session. Students were encouraged to make statements on what makes a mealworm travel based upon their data, with the understanding that there wasn’t necessarily one correct answer.

This type of module is typical of the SciTrek approach. Besides providing equipment and materials, SciTrek’s roll during the actual module is to create an environment that encourages students to think like scientists, meaning students learn to make observations and then try to objectively figure out why those observations are true and what they mean. This process requires patience, and breaking bad habits that limit exploration by discouraging experiments that don’t always work or by following experimental plans instead of creating them.

SciTrek offers a comprehensive online resource containing numerous modules (including mealworms), along with teacher instructions and student lab notebooks for nonlocal educators teaching 2nd-8th graders. To learn more about SciTrek, read our interview with Dr. Reich to learn about aspects of SciTrek’s creation, maintenance, and future plans, or visit SciTrek’s website.

Fresh Brewed Science – Science by the Cup

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Mr. Waldman leading a tour through his coffee roastery.

Mr. Waldman leading a tour through his coffee roastery.

When you say “science outreach,” most people think of working with K-12 students. Reaching adults is just as important, since adults decide how much our society values science, but this can be much more difficult. Even adults who bring their children to science fairs and care about STEM engagement can find it hard to relate to demonstrations and lessons designed for kids. Science by the Cup, an outreach initiative run by the Princeton Graduate Molecular Biology Outreach Program and supported by an ASBMB Outreach Seed Grant, is targeted specifically for adults to address this outreach gap.

One way that Science by the Cup differs from a science cafe, another event class typically aimed at adults, is that Science by the Cup events are not led by scientists. Rather, they are led by an expert with a specialized skill that requires knowledge of the underlying science. The first Science by the Cup event was a tour of Rojo’s Roastery, a small batch coffee maker in Princeton, NJ, that was led by its founder J. David Waldman. Mr. Waldman discussed the chemicals behind coffee’s flavor and aroma, as well as how coffee beans are harvested and processed. Graduate student volunteers complemented the tour by discussing how taste receptors function, the genetic basis of flavor, and subjectivity and bias.

A 1956 gas-fired Probat roaster producing fresh roasted coffee beans.

A 1956 gas-fired Probat roaster producing fresh roasted coffee beans.

The second Science by the Cup event was a tour of a brewery and a discussion of the biology of fermentation, leading to a discussion of the technology behind genetically modified yeast and other organisms and the ethics behind this work. Science by the Cup has been very successful and plans to continue holding events to showcase local experts and the science behind their skills.

Mr. Garner Soltes, a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton and organizer of Science by the Cup, wrote about this program for ASBMB Today. To read his article and learn more about this program, click here.

Community Resources for Science (CRS) – Supporting our Smallest Scientists and Their Teachers

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How can scientists foster critical thinking and problem solving skills in young children? Research shows that kids as young as eight months generate and test hypotheses about how things work as they play. Unfortunately, these early tendencies are suppressed and impeded when children are restricted to learning in traditional academic environments filled with strictly structured lectures.

In order to nurture and sustain these scientific tendencies, Community Resources for Science (CRS), a science outreach group based in the Bay Area, helps elementary and middle school science teachers incorporate more active-learning into their lessons by facilitating partnerships with local scientists. This scientist volunteer program, called BASIS (Bay Area Scientists in Schools), has more than 550 participants who write lessons and lead demonstrations in elementary and middle school classrooms. In the 2014 – 2015 academic year, BASIS volunteers went to 450 classrooms and reached nearly 10,000 K-6 students.

A BASIS volunteer working in a classroom

A BASIS volunteer working in a classroom

Teresa Barnett, executive director of CRS, says that the scientist volunteers are a huge part of this program’s success. “If the Next Generation Science Standards are to succeed in really changing the way science and engineering are taught, providing students with real-world connections and experience with the practices of science and engineering, it will take the support of STEM professionals,” she says. Most BASIS volunteers are graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from the University of California, Berkeley, and they work in self-formed teams to design lesson plans for the K – 6 age group. CRS guides them through the design process to ensure the classes are engaging and appropriate for this young audience.

Both students and teachers benefit from this approach. “Students thrive and delight in the inspiration of diverse, enthusiastic role models,” says Barnett. She goes on to say that “the vast majority of teachers we work with indicate that having BASIS volunteers in their classrooms helps them to see their students engaged in learning in new ways, motivates them to increase the amount of science they teach, increases their content knowledge, and increases their confidence and motivation.” BASIS has been very successful in this regard, as evidenced by internal and external program evaluations which show that participating students are actively engaged, and demonstrate skills such as critical thinking and problem solving.

A BASIS volunteer leading a lesson in a classroom

A BASIS volunteer leading a lesson in a classroom

A unique facet of the CRS volunteer base is that, while most volunteers are scientists, a scientific background is not actually necessary. Ms. Barnett says that “volunteer teams from industry can include people from across the company, such as in public relations and human resources, who work together with scientists on teams to present lessons. They can share with students about using their own skills (such as communication or graphic design) within a company that is a science-based business, and the importance of being STEM literate even if they are not themselves bench scientists or engineers.”

Unfortunately, CRS does not have enough volunteers to connect scientists with every teacher who needs them, so Barnett is always looking for more help.  “[Volunteers] are needed and appreciated!”  she says. “Explaining your research to eight-year olds is a significant challenge, but it helps to make STEM professionals better at sharing their research with a broader audience.” More importantly, designing and implementing active learning activities “is an important way to help prepare the future generation of problem-solvers, researchers, leaders, and inventors.”

To learn more about Community Resources for Science, visit the ASBMB Public Outreach website or contact Ms. Barnett [teresa@crscience.org] to see how you can get involved.

Come Together

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For those involved with public outreach, a major challenge is often just finding other people like you, even if they are at the very same institution. Last week in Arlington, VA, the Center for the Advancement of Informal Science Education (CAISE) hosted a convening to bring these individuals together. The goal of the two day conference, born out of the last summer’s NSF Advancing Informal STEM Learning PI meeting, was to facilitate collaborations both national and regional, and allow for the sharing of ideas and best practices. A majority of attendees were education and outreach directors from NSF-funded centers and facilities, including several from NSF-supported Materials Research Science and Engineering Centers (MRSECs) and Centers for Chemical Innovation (CCIs), while others in attendance came from professional societies, national networks, and even the NSF itself.

Meeting facilitators began the convening by identifying a set of “knowns” and “unknowns” in the field of informal science education (ISE), as a way to nudge attendees towards developing action items that could be used to strengthen the “knowns” and turn the “unknowns” into “knowns.” Using this framework, participants then spent the rest of the meeting engaged in loosely-structured interactive discussions, focused on four primary topics:

  1. Designing and Evaluating Education and Outreach Programs at Centers and Large Facilities
  2. Working with ISE Institutions and Networks
  3. Current and Past Productive Areas of ISE Research
  4. Implications for ISE from Recent Science of Science Communication Findings

From these discussions, a prioritized list of needs was generated in order to determine actionable next steps. A lot of interest focused on the NSF’s Broader Impacts requirement for grant applications, something that will likely be a hot topic at the upcoming Broader Impacts Summit. Participants felt that it would be extremely beneficial for the community to develop resources, standardized guidelines and event trainings for Broader Impacts statements, which would not only help applicants but also reviewers and program officers.

Attendees additionally pushed for the development of a centralized repository that would allow for aggregation of all things outreach. This would include successful public engagement models and examples, resources such as evaluation tools, and potentially a map of existing networks and programs involved in any type of outreach, science communication, public engagement or informal science education. Several existing websites, including the informalscience.org website, the AAAS Trellis website and the ASBMB outreach website, are attempting to do just that.

Another area of need identified by meeting participants was the continued development of common spaces and venues that would allow for informal science professionals, STEM researchers, science communication experts and social scientists and evaluators to connect and develop activities and programs jointly. Similarly, there was much discussion of finding a way to lessen the divide between informal and formal STEM education, perhaps by working in conjunction with groups such as the National Science Teachers Association. Professional society meetings would seem to be obvious locations for such interactions, while CAISE is also looking at ways to host additional convenings.

Two of the major needs identified by participants that unfortunately lacked specific actionable items were increasing both funding resources and programmatic sustainability, common themes for those involved in the field.  However, attendees felt that building of networks and personal and institutional connections could at least help the field start coming up with solutions to these issues.

ASBMB will continue to work with groups like CAISE to help improve the practice of informal science education and expand the field of those involved with the public outreach. If you have questions about how to get involved, get in touch with us at outreach@asbmb.org.

Science Outreach Events at the 2015 ASBMB Annual Meeting

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If you have ever struggled to explain your research to a family member, you know how difficult it can be to effectively explain science to the lay public. Communicating clearly about your work can be tricky even when you’re talking to another scientist. The ability to communicate effectively is also a critical skill when applying for grant funding. Figuring out how to make a meaningful connection between your outreach and your research can be particularly difficult when crafting a Broader Impacts statement as part of the application for NSF funding. Luckily for those planning to attend the 2015 ASBMB Annual Meeting, the Public Outreach Committee has organized several events to address all of these issues.

The first outreach event of this year’s meeting is the “How to Incorporate Science Outreach into Your Portfolio – Best Practices and Broader Impacts” session, running from 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM on Saturday, March 28th, in room 252B. This session will start with talks from previous HOPES, Outreach Seed Grant, and UAN Student Chapter Grant winners, showcasing ASBMB’s various funding mechanisms. An informal poster networking session will be held from 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM, followed by lunch and a group discussion until 1:00 PM. Please join us! Register here so we know how many people to expect and how much food to order.

Our next event is the Science Outreach Poster Session, held during the ASBMB opening reception on Saturday evening, March 28th from 7:30 – 9:00 PM in the third level foyer. Come see all the great outreach efforts our members (and others!) are leading across the country, and learn more about how you can get involved in your own community. More information on this session can be found here.

If you have been working on a Broader Impacts Statement, bring a draft to one of our Broader Impacts Workshops. These will be held Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM outside room 252. Mentors who have successfully won NSF funding have volunteered to help you improve your drafts and show you how to distinguish yourself from other applicants. More information on these workshops can be found here.

Our last two outreach events showcase the fun side of science. The first is the unique and highly interactive session “Improv for STEM Professionals: Creating Engaging Conversations.” Dr. Raquell Holmes, founder of improvscienceTM, will lead this session on Monday, March 30th from 12:30 – 2:00 PM in room 253B. Performed interviews, collaborative storytelling, and other exercises will help attendees learn how to create rapport with and to listen to an audience, making them more engaging speakers both in outreach activities and in professional talks.

Our final outreach event is, appropriately, open to the public. Dr. Raquell Holmes will lead “LIvE: the Living Improv Experiment” at Ned Devine’s Irish Pub, 1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Quincy Market Building, at 6:30 PM on Monday, March 30th. This living experiment is focused on defining how exactly improv can help science? Can it help everyone communicate more clearly? Can it be useful for starting public discussions? Come find out! Please invite your friends and colleagues, both in and outside the laboratory, to join us. This event is going to be a lot of fun, and to get the most of out it you should prepare to be very actively involved. We’ll start with group exercises and then move on to small groups, so that everyone gets a chance to practice and learn! Use this link to register.

For more information about all of our outreach events, please click here. We hope to see you in Boston!

Strengthening Teacher-Scientist Partnerships

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Ask a scientist what “outreach” means to them, and the majority will mention something about working with K-12 students. Unfortunately, these types of interactions tend to be sporadic, poorly executed, and bereft of quantitative assessment and evaluation, depriving those involved of any true, long-lasting benefit. To rectify this situation, a disparate group of programs has sprung up across the country, each aiming to create substantial, sustainable partnerships between the scientific research and K-12 education communities.

ITSP Program CoverSeveral of these programs were on display at the second International Teacher-Scientist Partnership Conference, held February 11 and 12 in San Francisco, CA. Hosted by the UCSF Science and Health Education Partnership, the meeting brought together various stakeholders, including teachers, students, researchers and administrators, to share best practices and identify areas for improvement.

Highlighting the conference were the two keynote addresses, the first a discussion between former National Academies of Science President Bruce Alberts and Shirley Malcom, Director for Education and Human Resources Programs at AAAS. Both speakers applauded the formation of such partnerships, and emphasized the need for teachers and scientists to learn from each other. Malcom even went so far as to point out that implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) necessarily required such collaborations.

On the second day, Helen Quinn, former Chair of the National Research Council’s Board on Science Education, talked about the need for three-dimensional science learning that incorporated facts, practices and concepts, an approach that informed the development of the NGSS. Echoing Malcom, Quinn pointed to teacher-scientist partnerships as a necessary tool for implementing the NGSS, pointing out that the standards imposed new demands on science teachers that would be impossible to meet without the provision of additional, novel support and professional development.

The bulk of the conference was filled with overlapping sessions and workshops that showcased different approaches to forming and sustaining partnerships. Despite the differences between programs, several consistent themes did emerge:

  1. Defined roles and outcomes

Oftentimes, the biggest failing in these partnerships comes from the fact that the goals, objectives and intended outcomes have not been agreed upon by both sides beforehand, leading to confusion and ineffectiveness. All presenters pointed out that their success stemmed from jointly working with both scientists and teachers (and their students) to resolve these issues in advance of any activities, so that everyone was able to be on the same page. A second point of emphasis was that for a particular partnership to be successful, scientists need to act as resources and role models, rather than as instructors. In this way, scientists can greatly increase the accessibility students (and teachers) have to the research enterprise, helping to remove the barriers between these groups.

  1. Local, bottom-up approach

While expressing support for a concerted, national support network (such as the soon-to-be extinct NSF Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) Program), almost all presenters and attendees spoke about the need to develop programs and collaborations locally. Though all in attendance were in support of a concerted effort to effect broad change in the education system, there was a general agreement that focusing effort on working with individual classrooms, schools and even school districts allows for more fluid partnerships that are more easily able to steer clear of the messy politics so often responsible for impediments to reform in education.

  1. Sustainability (resources, participation)

Funding was a major issue for all involved, as financial support for non-traditional education activities is sporadic. Presentations from the West Virginia Health Sciences & Technology Academy and the Integrated Science Education Outreach (InSciEd Out) program at the University of Minnesota highlighted their ability to successfully raise funding from a wide variety of local sources, both big and small, again pointing to the need for local connections. Attendees added that another difficulty was in maintaining participation by both scientists and teachers, and suggested establishing pipelines that would funnel both towards each other.

  1. Evaluation and Assessment

Recognizing that assessing the impact of a particular activity or program is inherently difficult, most presenters were nonetheless able to point to a proven track record of improved STEM learning and performance for students, thanks to the ability to follow students throughout their primary education. More qualitative feedback from scientists and teachers demonstrates a nearly universal benefit in terms of professional development and willingness to engage and participate.

 

The conference will be held again in 2017, by which point even more programs will have undoubtedly arisen. In the interim, ASBMB will be using our connections and resources to increase awareness of, and participation by, our members in such partnerships. If you are interested in finding out more about these partnerships, contact the ASBMB Public Outreach Office at outreach@asbmb.org.

 

More information about the conference, including a list of participating programs, can be found here.

A summary of tweets from the meeting is available here.