Energy Department Launches Science Education Campaign MENLO PARK, CALIF.
Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced a national campaign aimed towards getting the United States to strengthen its position as a leading producer of scientific talent by increasing the number of American students pursuing careers as scientists and engineers.
“The risks of a scientifically illiterate nation in the 21st century are too great for business as usual… That is why I am announcing today a series of changes in the way the Department of Energy will address the growing and serious problem of science and math literacy in this nation,” Abraham told several hundred researchers and graduate students at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, a Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory operated by Stanford University.
Abraham outlined a seven-step program named STARS: Scientists Teaching and Reaching Students. The program is designed to enhance the training of America’s mathematics and science teachers; grow students’ interest in science and math, especially in the critical middle school years; and draw attention to the women and men who have done DOE science so well — and thereby encourage young people and prospective teachers to pursue careers in math and science.
The program will award scholarships at national labs for math and science teachers. It will require labs including the Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National laboratories to host a total of 2,000 fifth- and eighth-graders for at least one day each year.
According to published studies, American students are lagging behind their overseas counterparts when it comes to math and science. U.S. fourth-graders ranked among the world’s best in math and science but by 12th grade, the students trailed almost every other industrialized country, ahead of only Cyprus and South Africa, according to the Third International Mathematics and Science Study completed in 1999.
The program “is certainly not a waste of tax dollars,” John Yochelson, president of San Diego-based Building Engineering & Science Talent organization, told the Associated Press.
One part of the initiative was begun this summer as a pilot program, which takes K-12 teachers and community college faculty instructors to seven of DOE’s national labs where they will work with scientists and engineers with the goal of improving their knowledge of science and their ability to teach. The DOE Laboratory Science Teacher Professional Development program will provide participating teachers with three-year, mentor-intensive science experiences that promises to result in better trained teachers — and improved student achievement. DOE plans to expand the program to all DOE labs, according to officials.
Abraham also announced that DOE is creating a special Secretary of Energy Advisory Board Task Force to assess innovative ways DOE can help improve science education in America. The special task force will be chaired by a prominent leader in the world of science, technology and business who will be named soon. The task forces will be charged with reporting its findings and recommendations to Secretary Abraham by the end of this year.
The DOE’s missions are national security, energy security, environmental clean-up and science. The department’s National Nuclear Security Administration, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Environmental Management, Office of Fossil Energy, Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology and Office of Science fund research and development projects at the DOE’s national laboratories, all of which maintain science education programs for teachers and K-12 students.
— News wire reports contributed to this article.
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