On Nov. 23, President Obama, in response to a letter from several scientific organizations, including the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, announced the establishment of National Lab Day, a grassroots initiative designed to reinvigorate science and math education in the nation’s schools and after-school programs and to lead to increased U.S. competitiveness in science. The goal of this “national barn-raising for hands-on learning” is to bring together millions of science, technology, engineering and mathematics professionals, volunteers and teachers from around the country to work on education projects focusing on experiential-learning opportunities for students.
National Lab Day is a project of Tides Center, a nonprofit public charity, and is a collaboration between government, educators, science and engineering associations, philanthropies and other organizations. There are several organizations that already have pledged support, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Jack D. Hidary Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Science Teachers Association.
Although it’s called National Lab Day, the goal is to develop a nationwide initiative to build local communities that will foster ongoing collaborations among volunteers from industry, students and educators. These volunteers will work to improve labs and discovery-based science experiences for students in grades 6-12. During the first week of May, these collaborations will be celebrated with activities across the country.
Become a Part of National Lab Day
Biochemistry and molecular biology offer a rich source of interesting, educational laboratory activities, and ASBMB encourages you to develop a National Lab Day hub. This is a group of volunteers committed to improving labs and lab experiences for students. Hubs can support an individual teacher, a group of teachers, a school or school district, or a project. They form to match teachers’ classroom needs with volunteer expertise, time and resources.
If you can’t get a group together, the initiative also offers individual scientists the opportunity to be matched up with projects in the areas that need their expertise. Potential volunteer activities include assessing current labs, updating or refurbishing lab equipment, conducting equipment and materials inventory, cleaning and repairing equipment and providing technology support. To date, more than 3,000 teachers and educators have signed up on the National Lab Day Web site and have begun collaborating on more than 500 projects.
To aid in tracking participation by ASBMB volunteers and teachers, a Web site is being set up by the National Lab Day organizers specifically for ASBMB members.
* Many of the details in this article were taken from an e-mail from James Brown and Jodi Peterson, co-chairs of the STEM Education Coalition. I would like to thank them for all their efforts on this important initiative.
J. Ellis Bell (firstname.lastname@example.org) is professor of chemistry and chair of the biochemistry and molecular biology program at the University of Richmond. He is also chair of the ASBMB Education and Professional Development Committee.