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educational outreach (was nerds...)

If we truly want to have an effect we really need to approach the problem
of educational outreach on many fronts at once.  If we fail to educte
the teachers, then the kids still suffer (see the story about the kids
whom the school system crushed).  If we educate the kids and the teachers,
we still need to reach the parents to get them to see the value in eduction,
and science education in particular.  Here are some ways that do work:
1.  Do visits to scouts, guides, etc., where there is already a ready market
for the info (the kids want the nature badge or whatever).
2.  Do visits to schools where dinosaurs on in the curriculum (i.e. grade 2
in indiana requires 6 weeks of dinosaurs packaged as wholistic learning,
namely everything from math to art, literature to health in those weeks 
is supposed to revolve around a dino theme).
3.  Try to get teachers to take courses in science education from scientists
rather than educators.  
4.  Offer courses in basic science in science departments aimed at teachers
or those artsies who will become teachers by default.
5.  Revise university and highschool curricula to require science be a 
mandatory subject more frequently and longer.  Preferably a lab science
course.  I applaud Purdue here that now requires its humanities students
to do at least one lab science course. 
6.  Work with movie, video, TV producers to improve the quality of the science
in their productions.

The big problems that we must overcome, however, remain:
1.  The general public does not value education in any form.  A

1.  The general public does not value education in any form.  And why should
they really?  After all the most "respected" people in our society are
football players, actors, and suchlike.  To really change the education
system, we need to speak out about how much we enjoy our lives.  We need
to say that science is fun, fulfilling, and mindblowingly exciting.
2.  The teachers out there teaching now came through a system that ignored
(or allowed them to ignore) science.  Therefore, the whole teacher clade
needs to be reeducated about the way in which science is done. 
3.  Because the teachers are poorly trained, they cannot discriminate
between good scientific materials to use in their classes and poor ones.
Therefore, we need to evalate the materials available in teachers stores
(and don't kid yourself, most are truly abyssmal!).  Better yet, we need
to provide them with suitable materials that are scientifically accurate
for the 1990's (most are about 1950-1960's in these stores).
This means getting involved in developing materials that teachers can
really use, maybe even developing the lesson plans that these materials
fit into.
4.  Finally, we need to educate public librarians, museum shop owners, 
bookstore owners, etc. about the need to archive the stuff that is outdated.
I have visited some very savy librarians who did not realize that 90%
of their kids collections were 40-50 years out of date.  They were not
capable of deciding what to discard and what to keep so they kept everything!

These are only some ideas, but I think you get the message.  The trick is that
ALL of us needs to do something for educational outreach.  Pick the one that
works best for you and do it, or better yet do several!

Bonnie Blackwell,                               bonn@qcvaxa.acc.qc.edu
Dept of Geology,                                (718) 997-3332
Queens College, City University of New York,    fax:  997-3349
Flushing, NY 11367-1597