Montgomery County Public Schools received commitments today for more than three-quarters of a million dollars from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute to continue and expand science education programs for teachers and students.
The new funds will support three initiatives, bringing the Institute's total awards for precollege education in the county to more than $3 million since 1990.
"The Institute supports science education programs nationwide but is also part of the Montgomery County community," said HHMI's president, Purnell W. Choppin, M.D. "It has made a special commitment to expand science opportunities for students and science teachers within the local area."
The grants announced today:
- A three-year award of $390,000 will support continuing efforts to revamp elementary science education within the county. A previous HHMI award, in 1994, provided for the purchase and replenishment of instructional kits for use in most of the system's 127 elementary schools. The new funds will support training for teachers in the remaining schools and provide additional training for teachers who have completed the initial course.
In addition, the grant will provide further training and equipment to help county teachers adapt to a revised fourth- and fifth-grade science curriculum that conforms with new national standards.
- A three-year award of $340,000 will continue a science education program with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and supplement it with an additional program offered by the Audubon Naturalist Society of Chevy Chase. Through a previous grant of $295,000 in 1993, on-the-water and classroom science education experiences have been provided to 3,800 students and teachers from the county. Students study aquatic chemistry, oyster productivity, fish migration, aquatic animal disease rates, and other topics. They also learn research skills such as how to keep accurate records and collate and analyze data.
The new grant support to the Audubon Society will enable nearly 200 elementary and middle school teachers to participate in a program of in-service training. The teachers will receive academic credit for their participation in these workshops, classroom lessons and field activities.
- A two-year award of $45,000 will support the third and fourth years of a summer program on biotechnology at the Edison Career Center in Wheaton, Maryland. The program, Fun With DNA, targets female and minority students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades—a critical time for fostering an interest in science careers among girls.
The materials and lesson plans developed for the 24 students in the program during the first two years have been incorporated into an instructional guide that has been distributed to interested science teachers nationally. In 1995 the guide was recognized by the Smithsonian Museum of American History in an exhibit.
"Students learn science best by actually doing science themselves, by carrying out experiments and getting involved in research," said Joseph G. Perpich, M.D., J.D., the Institute's vice president for grants and special programs. "Through these new grants and its previous programs, the Institute is trying to help schools in Montgomery County to bring science to life and draw more students, including girls and minorities, into science careers."
Institute initiatives in the D.C. metropolitan area have included its annual Holiday Lectures on Science; a summer research fellowship program at the National Institutes of Health; a student and teacher intern program at NIH; Maryland Science Week; and the First Light Program for inner city youngsters, sponsored by the Carnegie Institution of Washington.