NSF publishes unique learning resource in time for new school year

September 03, 2003

ARLINGTON, Va.--The National Science Foundation today published a first-of-its-kind resource for educators, parents and professionals seeking examples of unique and creative ways to explore science and technology and examine successful inquiry-based learning.

The book, titled "New Formulas for America's Workforce: Girls in Science and Engineering," catalogs the methodology and results of 211 NSF grants issued since 1993.

"This is a perfect back-to-school tool for those teachers, parents, homeschoolers, and administrators who want to see how research has identified hands-on learning that works," said Dr. Judith A. Ramaley, who leads NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources. "It is full of ideas, contacts, and research that makes it an essential element in the toolkit of every educator between the kindergarten and college undergraduate levels."

Each example begins with a concise description of a project and its elements, and emphasizes the related and supporting research. They are anchored by contact information, Web sites, the NSF grant number, key project members and associates, the products of the grant, and a list of key words.

The book is written in plain language and was borne from NSF's continuing effort to make science and technology more accessible to girls and women. "The book's theme centers on transforming the science and technology learning experience so it is not limited by a student's gender, race, disability, or other social factors," said Dr. Ruta Sevo of NSF. Sevo, who led the book's publishing, is NSF's senior program director for Research on Gender in Science and Engineering.

"It's tough to point out one activity as being better than another because they are all so unique and so good," said Sevo. "The book is intended to be what every educator would want as a first reference. Some of these projects changed mindsets. Some changed lives. All of them planted the seeds of discovery."

In one of the projects featured, 40 teachers were trained to organize and conduct after-school programs designed to preempt the solidifying of sex role stereotypes about technology at the sixth grade level. The program emphasized collaborative problem solving between girls, boys and parents using tools and models that emphasized the everyday importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The programs expose students to elements of engineering, architecture, and science not normally found in elementary curriculum.

In another example, a university's program ultimately led four junior high school students to explore engineering by testing the physical properties of building materials as they sought ways to resolve a community housing shortage. Their project earned the students the prestigious Columbus Discovery Award in 2002 and its $25,000 top prize. The students, all Crow tribe members, later used the knowledge they gained and the prize money to build an educational center on their reservation. The experiment was featured on Twin Cities Public Television-produced DragonflyTV, a science exploration and education program for children.

"NSF is dedicated to reaching students at their earliest awareness of science and technology and remove every barrier and stereotype imaginable that tells a young person what they can't do instead of what they can do," said Sevo. "This requires increased cooperation and participation between academia and institutions at the secondary and elementary levels. This book not only illustrates that science and engineering is everywhere, but the discovery of it is limited only by imagination."

Sevo said the book -loaded with research results, contacts, references, and even addresses for software downloads- might be used by teachers to network, learn how participate in serious research projects, and even obtain lesson plans. "Nearly every NSF grant has a requirement for researchers to meet what we refer to as 'broader impacts.' In the book there are even examples where students have helped researchers meet this requirement by participating in actual field research. I can't emphasize the various uses of the book enough."

The book has been published in print and electronic formats and is available free from NSF.

Bound, printed copies and compact disks may be ordered via the Web at www.nsf.gov/home/orderpub.htm. The printed version's document number is NSF 03-207 and the compact disk document number is NSF 03-208.

An electronic version is available in portable document format for paperless viewing. The PDF version may be downloaded from www.nsf.gov/pubs/2003/nsf03207/start.htm.
Science Assistant for NSF's program for Research on Gender in Science and Engineering: Andrew Watkins, (703) 292-4679, awatkins@nsf.gov

DragonflyTV: www.dragonflytv.org

Twin Cities Public Television: www.ktca.org

NSF's Directorate for Education and Human Resources, under the leadership of Dr. Judith A. Ramaley, guides the nation's research-based education programs and initiatives at the elementary through high school, undergraduate and graduate levels to foster academic and professional pursuits in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. The directorate's 2003 funding by Congress was $903.17 million.

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that supports fundamental research and education across all fields of science and engineering, with an annual budget of nearly $5.3 billion. National Science Foundation funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives about 30,000 competitive requests for funding, and makes about 10,000 new funding awards. The National Science Foundation also awards over $200 million in professional and service contracts yearly.

Receive official National Science Foundation news electronically through the e-mail delivery system, NSFnews. To subscribe, send an e-mail message to join-nsfnews@lists.nsf.gov. In the body of the message, type "subscribe nsfnews" and then type your name. (Ex.: "subscribe nsfnews John Smith")

Useful National Science Foundation Web Sites:
NSF Home Page: http://www.nsf.gov
News Highlights: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa
Newsroom: http://www.nsf.gov/od/lpa/news/media/start.htm
Science Statistics: http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/stats.htm
Awards Searches: http://www.fastlane.nsf.gov/a6/A6Start.htm

National Science Foundation

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