The Value of Partnerships in Science Education: A Win-Win Situation
An editorial in Science (Alberts, 2012) has expressed the need to teach “real science,” firmly based on hands-on and inquiry methodology. Also in a recent article, Stevens (2011) highlighted the contrast between the emphasis that federal agencies and professional associations place on science outreach, and the scarcity of support for such activities at the classroom level. To bridge this gap, we have developed a way to redefine science education by involving college students and faculty in “real science” outreach. Incorporating outreach activities into a college science curriculum is an efficient means to affect not only future scientists but also the world at large with which scientists need to communicate. In this paper we describe a Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) project. The project has been implemented in a minority setting, at a small college of allied health located in one of the most underserved areas of Los Angeles. Some of its outcomes were presented at two Society for Neuroscience meetings (Gizerian et al., 2009; Ayers and de Lacalle, 2010), before being also discussed as an example of outreach program during the FUN summer workshop in Pomona (California) in 2011. This project entails the development of a working partnership between K-12 institutions and college science students and faculty. Participation was voluntary (but college students could request community service credit) and most importantly built on student interests and connections with the community. The three components are described in terms of efficacy (i.e., impact on college students’ communication skills) and community value (i.e., impact on educational outcomes for the partner K-12 institution).