The Institute plans to award $12 million in new grants for precollege science programs at biomedical research institutions.

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) today announced plans to award $12 million in four-year grants to biomedical research institutions to provide precollege students and teachers with science education opportunities, including experience working in research laboratories.

The grants, which will range between $200,000 and $500,000, will help the institutions stimulate interest in science through programs for students, families, teachers and community groups. Many of the programs will provide students with research or "hands-on" science opportunities, as well as promote the professional development of teachers through research opportunities and partnerships with scientists. The grants will also support cross-cutting activities such as curriculum development and the preparation of science kits.

Since 1988, HHMI has awarded more than $100 million to enhance precollege science education nationwide. This is part of its larger grants program, which has awarded more than $600 million over the past decade to boost science education from the earliest grades through postgraduate trainingthe largest privately funded education initiative in U.S. history. HHMI's grants program complements the Institute's principal mission, which is to conduct biomedical research with its own scientific teams.

"This is our second round of awards for biomedical research institutions," said Purnell W. Choppin, HHMI's president. "With their wonderful scientists and research facilities, these institutions have proven to be an invaluable resource to schools. They are helping large numbers of students and teachers to learn first-hand about the remarkable advances occurring in the biological sciences. Their programs are also helping teachers to update their skills and lesson plans."

The Institute has invited more than 200 eligible medical schools, academic health centers and independent biomedical research institutions in the United States to apply. To be eligible, institutions must be nonprofit and independent, and have an active biomedical research program with staff on-site who can provide laboratory and other science education experiences. Details about the application process are available at:

A key goal of the initiative is to break down barriers between "science" and "education" by encouraging collaboration among scientists, science educators, students and families. The initiative seeks to increase the opportunities for young people to carry out real experiments and interact with scientists, such as through mentoring programs.

The competition also highlights the central role that classroom teachers continue to play in precollege science education, even as biomedical research institutions and other science- based organizations become more involved. "As we have seen over the past ten years in the Institute's precollege initiatives, there has been a fundamental shift in the role of the teacher from lecturer, expert, and tester to coach and facilitator of student learning," explained Joseph Perpich, HHMI's vice president for grants and special programs. "Improving science education will require significant changes in our school systems to meet the needs of teachers and students in the new world of the Web and interactive learning technologies."

HHMI supports precollege science education through several programs. The new grants competition is the fifth in a series that has previously awarded $29 million. In addition, through its undergraduate science education program, HHMI has awarded $73 million for precollege outreach initiatives at colleges and universities. It also has given $4 million in two grants to the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation for summer institutes for high school biology teachers. HHMI's Washington, D.C., metropolitan area initiatives have included nearly $5 million to provide K-12 students with "hands-on" experience in the science classroom and laboratory and to support teacher training activities.

The deadline for the new proposals is October 1, 1998. The awards are expected to be announced in the summer of 1999.