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Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Investment In County Schools Now Exceeds $4 Million

Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Investment In County Schools Now Exceeds $4 Million

Summary

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute announced today that it will award two grants totaling $900,000 over three years to enhance biology education in the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS).  

The grants will enable students and teachers to carry out research at the National Institutes of Health, support a molecular biology course for teachers and assist high school biology teachers in incorporating modern biotechnology into their classes. The funds bring the Institute's total awards for precollege education in the county to more than $4 million since 1990.    

"Support from the Institute is enabling county students from the earliest grades through high school to learn biology by carrying out their own experiments and investigations," said HHMI's president, Purnell W. Choppin. "Since our headquarters are located in Montgomery County, we have a special interest in working with the school system to expand science opportunities for local students and teachers."    

The grants announced today:    

(1) A three-year award of $555,000, the fourth in a series totaling $1.9 million since 1990, to continue an internship program for county students and teachers at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. Under the grant, 15 students are selected from county schools each year to conduct research in NIH laboratories full time during the summer and half time during the academic year. Prior to the summer, the students participate in a two-week molecular biology course along with five teachers, who then work full time for six weeks in an NIH laboratory. In addition, five teachers are invited to return to NIH to work in a laboratory for a second summer and use the experience to develop an instructional unit.    

(2) A three-year award of $345,000 to assist biology teachers in county high schools who want to incorporate modern biotechnology into their curriculum. The teachers will follow a model developed by the DNA Learning Center of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, which was introduced in Montgomery County through an HHMI grant in the early 1990s. The new funds will pay for training, laboratory kits and logistical support, as well as for a one-week course in which teachers learn to use new instrumentation in chemistry lessons.    

"It's difficult and expensive for teachers to keep up with the rapid changes taking place in biology," said Joseph G. Perpich, the Institute's vice president for grants and special programs. "These grants will help teachers bring their skills up to date and expand the opportunities for students to explore molecular biology in the laboratory."    

Since 1990, the Institute has awarded more than $4 million to enhance science education at all levels of the county school system. Previous grants include: $640,000 to help overhaul science education in elementary schools and provide teachers with kits that provide materials for youngsters to explore the composition of rocks, the life cycle of butterflies, the development of plants and other topics.

$598,000 to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and MCPS to support environmental science workshops where students explore the Chesapeake Bay and teachers learn techniques for incorporating environmental studies into the science curriculum.

$99,000 to the Edison Career Center in Wheaton to support summer science camps where middle school girls study molecular biology intensively.

$37,000 to the Audubon Naturalist Society and MCPS to provide teachers with curricula and resources to conduct science education programs in their own schoolyards.    

The Institute also supports a variety of other science education programs in the metropolitan area, including its annual "Holiday Lectures on Science" for high school students and a summer research fellowship program at NIH for area high school and college students.