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Education Report for March/April 2008

The AIBS Education Office provides analysis and communication for the AIBS Board, Headquarters Office, and Education Committee on issues of import to the AIBS membership and the larger scientific community. Reports are broadly disseminated by email every few months to AIBS membership leaders and contacts. Special reports are sent more frequently as needed. We have archived these reports here for your information and attention. Read about each report's contents below, then click to read the complete text.

2008 AIBS Meeting on Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases

The AIBS annual meeting, “Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases,” will be held 12-13 May 2008 at the Westin Arlington Gateway Hotel in Arlington, Virginia. This year’s meeting will be held in collaboration with the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the National Council for Science and the Environment. To register online, visit the meeting Web site at www.aibs.org/annual-meeting/annualmeeting2008.html.

James E. Hansen, with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and Terry L. Maple, coauthor with Newt Gingrich of the book A Contract with the Earth, are recent additions to the meeting’s roster of speakers. AIBS President Rita Colwell, of the University of Maryland at College Park, is the program chair.

A special session on communicating science with the public will be chaired by Ira Flatow of National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. The other speakers in that session are Robert Morris, author of The Blue Death: Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink, and Kim Stanley Robinson, author of Sixty Days and Counting and several other best-selling science fiction books.

Plenary speakers on the second day of the meeting and their topics are Andrew Dobson (Princeton University), on disentangling the role of climate, immunity, and biotic interactions in the dynamics of infectious diseases; Duane Gubler (University of Hawaii), on the emergence and spread of dengue/dengue hemorrhagic fever and its connection to climate or environmental change; and Stephen Hoffman (Sanaria, Inc.), on malaria and its environmental source.

A special session organized by the National Council for Science and the Environment concerns climate change and human health, and developing collaborations with the public health community; also scheduled are workshops organized by the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study, the National Association of Biology Teachers, the WGBH Educational Foundation, and the Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science.

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House Members Consider Diversity in STEM Education

The Diversity and Innovation Caucus convened a Stakeholders Listening Meeting on 28 February 2008 to consider how to maintain the nation’s competitiveness in the global innovation and educational equality for underrepresented minorities in the sciences. With Representatives Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Mike Honda (D-CA), Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX), and Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) in attendance, the briefing was an opportunity for members of Congress to learn from stakeholders in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, who spoke to more than 80 representatives from academia, minority groups, and industry and professional societies.

One panel of experts explored diversity in K–12 STEM education, including barriers to minority engagement in the classroom. Members of the panel and audience shared current best practices for improving the education of minority students in the STEM fields. A second panel examined diversity in postsecondary education and in the STEM workforce. Tapping the talent of underrepresented minorities and women was proposed as a solution to the diminishing domestic pipeline of STEM workers in the United States.

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HHMI Awards $60 Million to Invigorate Science Teaching at Liberal Arts Colleges

Forty-eight undergraduate institutions will receive $60 million to help them usher in a new era of science education. Colleges in 21 states and Puerto Rico will receive grants ranging from $700,000 to $1.6 million over the next four years to revitalize their life sciences undergraduate instruction. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has challenged colleges to create more engaging science classes, to bring real-world research experiences to students, and to increase the diversity of students who study science.

The grant recipients, primarily undergraduate institutions, include traditional liberal arts colleges, historically black colleges and universities, small religious schools, and larger state institutions, all united by a commitment to teaching undergraduates. For the full press release, visit www.hhmi.org/news/college20080422.html.

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April Marks 25th Anniversary of A Nation at Risk

In 1983, the national report A Nation At Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform delivered a wake-up call for the US education system. It described stark realities such as a significant number of functionally illiterate high schoolers, plummeting student performance, and growing challenges from international competitors. It was a warning, a reproach, and a call to arms. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings will release a white paper examining the progress and continued needs for the future.

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Professional Development Helps Connect Science Centers and Schools

Class field trips to zoos, science centers, and planetariums are familiar experiences for most of us, but they are not the only ways in which informal science institutions (ISIs) support the formal K–12 school system. Indeed, a 2005 study of the relationship between ISIs and schools, conducted by the Center for Informal Learning and Schools and funded by the National Science Foundation, found that more than half of the nation’s ISIs offer some kind of professional development programming for teachers. But with shrinking budgets and “No Child Left Behind” mandates, it is becoming more difficult for ISIs to fulfill this important part of their mission.

To help remedy the situation, Project 2061 and several science centers have joined forces to bring the popular “Using Atlas of Science Literacy” workshops to teachers around the country. These workshops provide a broad introduction to Project 2061’s tools and strategies for improving science teaching and learning. For more information, visit www.project2061.org/events/workshops/default.htm.

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2007 Digest of Education Statistics Released

The Digest of Education Statistics: 2007, from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), is the 43rd in a series of publications initiated in 1962. Its primary purpose is to provide a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of American education—from prekindergarten through graduate school—drawn from government and private sources, but especially from surveys and other activities directed by NCES. The digest contains data on the number of schools, students, and teachers, as well as statistics on educational attainment, finances, libraries, technology, and international comparisons. Details on population trends, education attitudes, labor force characteristics, and the background of federal funding supplies for evaluating the education data are also included. To obtain this publication, visit www.nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d07/.

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FREE Web site Provides Education Resources for Science

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) is a Web site that houses educational resources created by federal agencies. The FREE site was conceived in 1997 by a federal working group and launched a year later. To visit the site and browse the life science resources available, go to www.free.ed.gov/index.cfm.

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Emc2 Election Multimedia Contest for Cash

Science and technology issues have enormous implications for society at large. The next US president, Congress, and local leaders will confront topics that matter to young people, such as climate change, affordable health care, nuclear weapons buildup, and US economic competitiveness in science and engineering. If you could send a message on a science, technology, or health issue to the next US president and Congress, what would it be?

Visit Student Pugwash USA’s 2008 Science and Technology Policy Guide to voice your vision for science and society, and perhaps to win cash and other prizes. Learn more about the contest and find out where the candidates stand on critical issues such as climate change, stem cells, energy security, and nuclear nonproliferation at www.spusa.org/2008vote.

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Peace Corps Calls for Experienced Educators

The Peace Corps is looking for experienced educators and teachers to put their skills to use as Volunteers. In effort to bring in knowledgeable and practiced Volunteers, the Peace Corps is seeking mid-career and retiring professionals who are interested in challenging teaching opportunities and are considering an alternative to traditional retirement. There is a high demand for skilled teachers who can introduce innovative teaching methods and encourage critical thinking in overseas classrooms. To learn more about teaching opportunities with the Peace Corps, visit www.peacecorps.gov/minisite/education?cid=preduc.

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Upcoming Conferences and Events

Below is a list of national biology education related conferences. For a more complete list, visit the AIBS Education Events Calendar at www.aibs.org/education/calendar.html.

May 12–13, 2008 – AIBS:
The 2008 annual meeting of the American Institute of Biological Sciences on the theme of “Climate, Environment, and Infectious Diseases,” in Arlington, Virginia. The interplay of science and science policy in cross-cutting themes involving science, public policy, and education will also be addressed in a special session with plenary speakers featuring science communicators and authors of popular books on various aspects of infectious disease, human health, climate, and the environment. See www.aibs.org/annual-meeting/annualmeeting2008.html

June 14–19, 2008 – Biotechnology Institute: The 2008 International Conference on Biotechnology Education will be held in San Diego. The conference offers sessions on best practices, competitions, and hands-on professional development, linked to education and skill standards, mentoring workshops, and career development for students interested in biotechnology. The conference coincides with the BIO International Convention. Visit www.biotechinstitute.org/events/annualconference/annual_conference.html

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