Reaching Students through Teachers

Reaching Students through Teachers

The Academy's K-12 Science Education Program gives educators field trips, lectures, and networking events.

New York City is home to 9 major science research institutions, 25 National Medal of Science recipients, and more than 475,000 working scientists. Yet with the city's abundant scientific resources, its public school children still struggle in the sciences, lagging by most measures of scientific literacy. The 2005 Trial Urban District Assessment from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that the city's 4th- and 8th-grade students fell 20 or more percentage points below the national average in scientific achievement.

Additionally, according to the NYC Department of Education, black and Hispanic students—two minority groups comprising the majority of the student body—continually perform lower than white and Asian/Pacific Islander students on New York State assessments at the High School level, with a 22 point gap identified between white and black students in 2009.

Given the startling disconnect between New York as a science city and New York as a science education city, the Academy is well poised to knit those two communities together and find ways to link and leverage opportunities with resources. The Academy recently began offering programming aimed at teachers with the mission to connect teachers to professional development opportunities, student programs, and great science content. We do that by offering our own programming, but also by providing a calendar of upcoming professional development.

Teachers have a lot of great options for professional development in New York, so we've focused on three main types of programming: content talks, field trips, and networking opportunities. Teaching the Cutting Edge is a series that provides scientific talks aimed at teachers. In addition to excellent content, our speakers, such as Nobel Laureate Martin Chalfie, offer compelling narratives to help students understand the Nature of Science. Upcoming speakers include Mariette DiChristina, Editor in Chief of Scientific American, and Ben Oppenheimer, a comparative exoplanetary scientist at the American Museum of Natural History and past awardee in the Blavatnik Awards for Young Scientists. Our content talks are available as multimedia presentations called eBriefings and can be shared with students and colleagues.

Our second series, Discovering the Urban Environment, allows teachers to try out scientific field trips that are easily accessible on public transportation and low cost or free. On our first trip, 60 teachers explored the wetlands of Randall's Island. On others, teachers will tour the World Trade Center Path Station, the Second Avenue subway line, and the Harlem DNA Lab.

Finally, we offer a series of Outreach Rountables to help teachers connect to each other and the informal science education community—two groups with the shared mission to increase student access to great science. While we do offer a range of professional development options, all of them have the express goal of building a community of science teachers in New York.

All of our events are free to Academy members and are available for professional development hours. We also strongly encourage participants to bring students and colleagues to our events.

In addition to our stellar teacher events, Academy membership connects teachers to the Academy's scientific offerings including discussion groups, Science & the City talks, conferences, and almost 150 years of the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.

Our goal is to help link teachers to the amazing resources that New York has to offer. This is possible thanks to the generous backing of our donors and partners, and the hard work of our steering committee, headed by Professor Fernand Brunschwig and composed of leaders in science education.

How Academy members can get involved:

•  Help us build our professional development calendar for teachers by emailing opportunities to scieed@nyas.org.
•  Suggest a field trip, great speaker, or resource for our upcoming programming.
•  Come to one of our education events, especially the Outreach roundtables. They're great for meeting teachers and sharing ideas of how to work together!
•  Let us know what great education outreach you and your organization are doing.
•  And send your ideas for how we can meet our goals to me at mgroome@nyas.org.