Partnering with community groups improves K-12 science education

The recent revolution in the life sciences- the sequencing of the human genome, and development of "high throughput" technologies- has created new opportunities for investigation, and created new challenges for educators. Sarah C.R. Elgin, Ph.D., professor of biology; biochemistry and molecular biophysics; and education in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, has been a proponent and creator of partnerships locally and nationwide to improve the life science education both in K-12 schools and at the undergraduate level.

"Biology has changed very recently," Elgin said. "It's tough for a secondary school teacher to keep up with the advances, so we need partnerships to accomplish this."

St. Louis, like many other cities, has risen to the occasion with partnerships such as the Math-Science Partnership (directed by Washington University Arts & Sciences Dean Edward S. Macias and Victoria May, Washington University outreach director in biology) and the Center for Inquiry in Science Teaching and Learning (directed by William Tate, Ph.D., Washington University professor and chair of education) at Washington University. These partnerships, which include informal science institutions as well as academic partners, provide curriculum materials as well as professional development for teachers and educators to help them stay on top of the biological advances that are happening each day.

Partnerships, while a seemingly logical application of university and college resources, are not always easy to initiate or to maintain.

However, Elgin has a proven track record of engendering productive partnerships and then evaluating them to continually improve the process. A dedicated scientist, she wants to make sure that each undergraduate student, each secondary educator; in fact, each interested individual, can explore the wonders of laboratory science if they so choose.

Elgin spoke at 8:30 a.m. (Central), Feb. 17, 2006,

Contact: Tony Fitzpatrick
Washington University in St. Louis

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