Strategies for Avoiding Reinventing the Precollege Education and Outreach Wheel
The National Science Foundation’s recent mandate that all Principal Investigators address the broader impacts of their research has prompted an unprecedented number of scientists to seek opportunities to participate in precollege education and outreach. To help interested geneticists avoid duplicating efforts and make use of existing resources, we examined several precollege genetics, genomics, and biotechnology education efforts and noted the elements that contributed to their success,indicated by program expansion, participant satisfaction, or participant learning. Identifying a specific audience and their needs and resources,involving K-12 teachers in program development,and evaluating program efforts are integral to program success. We highlighted a few innovative programs to illustrate these findings. Challenges that may compromise further development and dissemination of these programs include absence of reward systems for participation in outreach as well as lack of training for scientists doing outreach. Several programs and institutions are tackling these issues in ways that will help sustain outreach efforts while allowing them to be modified to meet the changing needs of their participants, including scientists, teachers, and students. Most importantly, resources and personnel are available to facilitate greater and deeper involvement of scientists in precollege and public education.