Jan. 4, 2010
UI professor works on national campaign to reinvigorate science education
University of Iowa professor Gina Schatteman is playing a key role in "Educate to Innovate," a White House initiative designed to reinvigorate science, technology, engineering and math education in schools and increase U.S. competitiveness in those fields.
Schatteman, associate professor of integrative physiology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is taking part in a two-year fellowship through the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Working in the National Institutes of Health's Office of Science Education in Washington, D.C., she has helped recruit more than 200 scientific organizations that will partner in providing middle and high school students with hands-on learning experiences.
"Educate to Innovate," a coalition of educators, scientists and philanthropies, was launched because the United States lags in science and math education when compared to other developed countries. Reports show American teens rank 21st out of 30 developed countries in solving scientific problems, and 26th in the percentage of students who meet basic proficiency standards in science.
"Most people don't realize how far behind we are, or consider the implications of the deficiencies," Schatteman said. "Innovation is essential to a vibrant economy, and we're starting to lose that edge. Jobs increasingly require advanced technology skills, and if Americans don't have them, jobs will be outsourced."
Schatteman's work focuses on National Lab Day, which will match volunteers -- university students, scientists, engineers and other professionals in math and science -- with educators and students to improve labs and discovery-based science experiences for students in grades 6-12. National Lab Day will be celebrated in May 2010, but activities will take place throughout the year. The National Lab Day Web site, http://www.NationalLabDay.org, includes a matching function to pair educators up with scientists willing to volunteer.
Schatteman was lead developer of a related site, http://science.education.nih.gov/NIHSciEdNation, designed to provide information, training materials and resources for National Lab Day volunteers.
"Scientists want to do their part to inspire the next generation and improve science and math education, but they may not know how they can help," she said. "We're inviting teachers to tell us what they need, whether it's speaking to a class about careers in science, planning a field trip, leading a chemistry experiment, or mentoring a student who is interested in a particular field."
President Obama praised the initiative during a Nov. 23 speech.
"Lifting American students from the middle to the top of the pack in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) achievement over the next decade will not be attained by government alone," he said. "I applaud the substantial commitments made today by the leaders of companies, universities, foundations, non-profits and organizations representing millions of scientists, engineers and teachers from across the country."
Schatteman, who studies how adult stem cells can help people with diabetes and teaches physiology courses, plans to return to the UI in fall 2010. She said the fellowship has driven home the importance of communicating science for a general audience and opened her eyes to the variety of careers available to scientists - insights she will share with her students.
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