Quick and Simple Ways to Get Involved in K-12 Science Education
Created by Jennifer L. B. Anderson, Ph.D., SERC, Carleton College.
What Can a Scientist Do?
"Scientists can provide opportunities for teachers to learn how the scientific process works – what scientists do and why they do it. They can..."
- "...provide research opportunities for practicing teachers." (p.3)
- "...act as scientific partners (p.3) and mentors (p.38)."
- "...provide connections to the rest of the scientific community." (p.3)
- "...assist in planning, conceptualizing, and writing grant proposals for science-education projects." (p.38)
- "...provide hands-on, inquiry-based workshops for area teachers." (p.3)
- "...provide teachers access to equipment, scientific journals, and catalogs not usually available in schools." (p.3)
- "...help teachers to review educational material for its accuracy and utility." (p.3)
- "...support good science-process teaching." (p.37)
- "...provide accurate scientific content that also adds to the teachers' understanding of scientific process." (p.37)
- "...ensure the accuracy of scientific content of existing curricula." (p.37)
Answer a Student- or Teacher-Submitted Question Online
There are many online websites that allow the general public to submit questions to be answered by an actual scientist who has volunteered for general topic areas, such as "Earth Sciences" or "Astronomy". The questions are screened beforehand and the scientist devises a response that is then posted to an online collection of answers. Most organizations and societies have such an online resource that is typically referred to as an "Ask a Scientist" program.
- AskNSDL is a national "Ask-a-Scientist" program sponsored by the National Science Digital Library with over 300 participating scientists.
- The Mad Scientist Network (more info) is a network of many scientists from a large range of fields, including the Earth Sciences, and run by the Washington University Medical School in St. Louis.
Join/Support Organizations that Support Teachers
There are many national organizations that support science teachers. Often a membership to these organizations includes a journal or other mailing dealing with current issues of science education, as well as connections to other faculty across the nation who are involved in science education programs. These organizations provide ideas, inspiration and support for science teachers, science educators and scientists interested in education. In addition, many states have local or regional science teacher or earth science teacher associations.
- National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA)
- National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT)
- National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) (more info)
Be an Advocate in Your Local Community and School District
There are many roles for scientists in local school districts such as being a member of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), the school board, or volunteering their time to review science textbooks and curricula. Scientists are recognized as leaders in their communities and can use their voices to support practicing science teachers and quality science education programs. A scientist who is an active science advocate raises the profile of science in their community and makes their work more visible and accessible to the general public by giving a public talk or field trip, or inviting a class to visit their lab on campus. (learn more here)