After working together on Education Outreach at the Salk Institute from 1988 into the early 1990's, Anne Blue asked Patricia Winter if she would come to General Atomics to establish an Education Outreach Program. Starting in 1992, they worked together to help General Atomics host a series of High School Science days, involving tours of GA facilities by high school students and their teachers. In 1993, GA scientists began working with Science Coordinators for the San Diego Schools in order to bring the business and research side of science into the classroom. The goal was to both to improve the quality of science education and to encourage more students to pursue science careers. In addition, the teachers' interactions with the scientists and exposure to everyday uses of their disciplines would help them to be better educators.
To attain this goal, four areas of core competency at GA were initially selected to form the basis for the development of inquiry-based education modules and associated workshops. Scientist/teacher teams wrote these modules, which fuse the content and methodology of industrial research and development with the teaching skills of experienced science teachers.
Hundreds of teaches attended these initial workshops, which include:
Since these workshops were developed, additional educational modules have been developed and presented to teachers at local, state, and national conferences. These additional workshops include:
These modules were meant to be enrichment activities that would provide a menu of novel activities that teachers could select for their students. However, two of these modules attracted the interest of professional educational institutes, who have transformed them into educational modules that are being distributed nationally. The Line of Resistance module and the Explorations in Materials Science modules were revised in collaboration with the Institute for Chemical Education (ICE) at the University of Wisconsin. ICE is currently selling these modules nationwide.
When these workshops are presented at conferences, the GA Sciences Education Foundation supports the printing of various associated materials that are handed out to all participants, as well as the travel expenses of the GA scientist presenters.
The development of these modules has served a number of unexpected purposes as well.
- It has reinvigorated the teacher members of the teams, as well as teachers who have attended the workshops, all of whom are excited to collaborate with working industrial scientists.
- It has reinvigorated the scientist members of the teams, who are excited to collaborate with teachers, learn about learning, and receive tremendous personal satisfaction helping to infuse the educational system with new ideas.
- It has demonstrated that teacher/scientist teams, who are not professional curriculum developers, can effectively participate in the continuous development of new content and approaches to learning.
- It has demonstrated that the business world is serious and committed to working with teachers and their students to improve the educational system.
- It can serve as a role model for a "Learning Society," where heretofore disparate groups collaborate and jointly work and learn together for the betterment of society.
In order to expand the program, the General Atomics Sciences Education Foundation [501(c) (3)] was established in 1995.
Since 1999, the General Atomics Sciences Education Foundation expanded its role to provide support for K-12 science education projects, and has given over $125,000 to San Diego area science education non-profit agencies to improve elementary, middle, and high school science. The recipients include the San Diego Science Alliance , the PISCES project, the BEWiSE program, the Elementary Institute of Science , the KISS Institute for Botball, Expanding Your Horizons, the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair, Classroom of the Future Foundation, the Arts Bus Express, the Midway Museum Education Program, the Business Roundtable for Education, the USD/Year of Space, the San Diego High Tech Program, the San Diego County Office of Education, the San Diego Science Festival, Tau Beta Pi / Think Green, the Triton Engineering Student Council, the Ocean Discovery Institute, the Association for Women in Science, the San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum, and the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
The Foundation has also participated in professional society judging at the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair since 1995. Awards, which include a $200 check to the winners, are presented in the junior and senior divisions for the best project involving advanced materials, or the innovative use of conventional materials. The project can involve the development of new materials, the study of material properties, or the application of materials in a new or innovative way in the construction of a device or structure. An honorable mention award is also presented in each division.
In 2010, the Foundation launched the GASSSS (GA Scientists Supporting Science for Students) Program to provide funding for the purchase of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics materials for K-12 classrooms, contingent on a GA employee supporting the implementation of these materials. As of December 2013, 37 employees have participated in the program.
Links to all the different Foundation resources including education modules, presentations, and publications can be obtained via the Foundation home page: www.sci-ed-ga.org.
For additional information, please contact Dr. Lawrence Woolf at Larry.Woolf@gat.com