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The Green Life: Creating More Scientific Americans

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May 11, 2011

Creating More Scientific Americans

Science_brain With carbon dioxide levels rising and forest cover declining, the case for creating a generation of environmentally literate students is easy to make. However, in 2009, the U.S. ranked 17th out of 34 nations in science education, according to Program for International Student Assessment.

Scientific American, the oldest continuously published magazine in the U.S., has launched a program to improve this trend, by teaming up with an initiative called Change the Equation. The 1000 Scientists in 1000 Days project will connect scientists who are willing to share their knowledge with teachers who want to increase their students' engagement with science at all grade levels.

Mariette DiChristina, the editor-in-chief of Scientific American, is the initiator of the project.

"I really believe the American public in general knows that science is an engine of modern progress and yet [they] don’t connect to it," she said. "I asked myself, 'How can Scientific American be of assistance in creating more scientific Americans?'"

The main reason for that disconnect, DiChristina believes, is lack of exposure. By bringing professional scientists into the education system—whether by advising on school curricula, giving guest lectures, or Skype conferencing in a classroom—the program will improve the quality of science education that students are receiving. In addition, it will aid teachers who don't have a science degree, a common occurrence in lower grade levels.

"If a scientist comes in and talks about what she [or he] is doing in the lab, a student can see that, ‘Hey, this textbook in front of me is not just a textbook, it’s a recipe for learning,'" DiChristina said. "Anyone who knows kids knows that they like to ask questions. Science is all about asking questions."

The 1000 days in the title refers to the three-year period over which the program will be administered. However, the name may have to be changed soon, and for good reason. Launched just last week, more than 250 scientists have already signed up to be part of the program.

 --Rosie Spinks

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