Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Outside the School Walls

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Outside the School Walls

Article excerpt

This issue of The Science Teacher (TST) continues our tradition of devoting one issue each year to partnerships that connect students, teachers, and their communities. Science activities that take students outside school walls can combine the best aspects of community service, problem--and project-based learning, and lessons in good citizenship. Community service learning--which emphasizes both service and learning--can be an important way to make education interesting and relevant for students. Science projects become more meaningful when they connect students with their communities.

Over the last five years, TST has published more than 50 articles describing community partnership programs. We have featured articles describing diverse, interesting projects, such as investigating lake ice in Alaska, researching hammerhead sharks in Hawaii, analyzing the environmental impact of a construction project on turtles in Connecticut, communitywide radon testing in Iowa, and tracking cougars in Washington state. Projects such as these illustrate that what students learn in the classroom is applicable to the world outside school walls--a world rich with learning opportunities for our students.

For teachers, locating authentic research opportunities outside the classroom is easier than ever before. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has expanded opportunities for teacher-scientist partnerships through its Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program (www. retnetwork.org). This program funds the outreach efforts of practicing scientists who provide integrated education and research opportunities for K-12 teachers as part of their own research programs. Limited funding is also available for travel awards to NSTA National Conferences on Science Education for RET participants. Over the years, TST has highlighted numerous RET experiences. For a good overview, have a look at "Bridging the Gap Between Classrooms and Research Laboratories," found in the April/May 2007 issue of TST (Dempsey, Hibbett, and Binder 2007).

The recent economic stimulus package--the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA), passed by Congress in February of this year--allocates $3 billion to NSF for investment in America's scientific enterprise (NSF 2009). Although details of how this new funding will be distributed are still being worked out at the time of this writing, one hopes that some of this money will be used to support the RET program and provide teachers with opportunities to participate in ongoing research projects. …

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