May 19, 2014
LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute’s award-winning Education Outreach program recently earned national recognition when it received a two-year pilot grant through the AAAS’s new National STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Volunteer Program. The grant, one of just seven the association awarded, will help bring San Diego-area high school science teachers together with Salk scientists to develop curriculum based on the state-of-the-art research taking place at the Institute.
The Salk submission, sponsored by Salk professor and AAAS member Ronald Evans on behalf of the Institute, proposed a new initiative at Salk called New Frontiers in Science Education. Evans, an HHMI investigator and international authority on hormones, has long been committed to fostering relationships with local educators and hosts high school and undergraduate students in his lab, inspiring them to pursue careers in STEM fields.
“We are excited and confident that New Frontiers will have a significant impact on 21st century science education in San Diego County,” says Ellen Potter, neurobiologist and director of the Education Outreach program. “We’re most grateful to the AAAS for providing the seed funding that will make it possible.”
During the first year of the project, three teachers, from La Jolla High School, Mountain Empire High School and Steele Canyon Charter High School, Salk Education Outreach and scientists, including Evans, will take part in focus groups and workshops to identify specific areas of Salk research that lend themselves to adaptation for the classroom. Topics will reflect the latest developments in biomedical research and how the research relates to real-world disease and/or environmental issues. Working collaboratively, the scientists and teachers will then develop appropriate curriculum and support materials that incorporate elements of state and national science standards, including the Next-Generation Science Standards.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity to leverage the scientific expertise of Salk investigators and the enthusiasm and classroom experience of the participating teachers,” says Dona Mapston, Education Outreach specialist. “It will be fascinating to see what comes out of the process we’ve mapped out for grant.”
Once the first year’s activities are assessed and the curriculum and materials refined, local high school teachers will be recruited to participate in the second year of the grant. During the summer, the teachers will also have opportunities to spend time in the laboratory with a volunteer research scientist to observe how actual research is carried out.
The program’s development plan parallels that of the Salk Mobile Science Lab, which began as a series of discussions and grew into an award-winning program that to date has served over 35,000 San Diego County middle school students, providing them with hands-on experiences with genetics and DNA technology.
The Salk Institute’s Education Outreach program is dedicated to training the next generation of scientists and researchers, both in the knowledge and skills needed to pursue basic research as well as providing unparalleled exposure to role models who embody the intellectual and personal qualities that promote creativity and scientific excellence. Four signature programs make up Salk’s outreach: the Salk High School Summer Scholars, the March of Dimes High School Science Day, the award-winning Mobile Science Laboratory and a new program called SciChat, which brings Salk scientists into grade 4-6 classrooms via Skype.
About the Salk Institute for Biological Studies
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies is one of the world’s preeminent basic research institutions, where internationally renowned faculty probes fundamental life science questions in a unique, collaborative and creative environment. Focused both on discovery and on mentoring future generations of researchers, Salk scientists make groundbreaking contributions to our understanding of cancer, aging, Alzheimer’s, diabetes and infectious diseases by studying neuroscience, genetics, cell and plant biology, and related disciplines.
Faculty achievements have been recognized with numerous honors, including Nobel Prizes and memberships in the National Academy of Sciences. Founded in 1960 by polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk, M.D., the Institute is an independent nonprofit organization and architectural landmark.