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Thinking about Your Role (adapted from BSCS, 2008)

By now you likely have some understanding of why science education should be improved, how inquiry-based learning is an important part of that reform, and why scientists must be involved in this effort. To look more specifically at the role you can play within science education, consider the following questions.

  • Do you want to do presentations to students or teachers, or work behind the scenes?
  • Are you comfortable speaking in front of an audience?
  • Do you have already-established relationships that you could use as a point of entry into the educational system?
  • Would you prefer a long- or short-term commitment?
  • Would you prefer to work as an individual or as part of a team?
  • Are you interested in learning more about educational issues?
  • With whom do you want to interact— students, teachers, administrators, policy makers?

The tables below will help you determine avenues for involvement in science education. As you investigate different options, please take some time to look into local science education efforts that may already exist in your community or at your university. These efforts might include programs funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, or Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Joining a program that is already under way is often an efficient approach.

You can become involved in many ways. You might consider your interests, time, and talents. Traditionally, most scientists think about visiting schools, doing demonstrations, and serving as role models. We certainly encourage this. We hope you will consider other ways that your expertise can contribute to science education, too. The tables below present a variety of opportunities that vary in time and level of involvement. The roles are grouped under advocating, serving as a resource, and becoming a full partner.

Table 3.1. Sample roles for scientists working with students and teachers.
AdvocateResourcePartner
Discuss K-12 education career opportunities with graduate studentsHost a tour of a research facility for students or teachersHost a student or teacher in your lab
Speak favorably of the teaching profession in your undergraduate classesParticipate in professional development activities for teachersCollaborate to produce exemplary curriculum materials
Be an e-mentor for a student or a teacherPartner with a teacher to implement curriculum
Judge a science fairPartner with a student in a research project

Table 3.2. Sample roles for scientists working with the public and parents.
AdvocateResourcePartner
Promote science education at PTA meetingsReview materials for a science museum displayCollaborate to create museum displays
Talk to business groups about the relationship of science education to economic growthGive a talk at a senior center, or other community organizationServe as science coordinator for local 4H club or other youth group.
Write letters to the editor about the need for high quality science educationServe on the board of local science centerCollaborate to establish a chapter of a youth science organization
Advocate for informal science educationGive a talk at a science center

Table 3.3. Sample roles for scientists working with colleagues and institutions.
AdvocateResourcePartner
Ask your department to establish closer ties with school of educationTeach a science class for pre-service teachersHost a pre-service teacher in your lab
Work with your professional society to increase scientist involvement in K-12 educationCollaborate to improve courses on teaching scienceCollaborate to develop exemplary courses on teaching science
Speak favorably of the teaching profession with your colleaguesMentor a pre-service teacher

Table 3.4. Sample roles for scientists working with boards of education (local, regional, or state)
AdvocateResourcePartner
Talk to school board about importance of science educationReview state framework for science educationHelp create or revise science standards
Talk to school board about importance of professional developmentReview science curriculum or standards for relevance and accuracyParticipate on boards of review of teacher certification
Speak to school board about adopting exemplary science curriculaServe on a board for a science education project

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