What Is Project MICRO?
Major changes are being made in the way science is taught in pre-college schools. Delivering those changes to thousands of schools is an enormous task. Scientific societies are a key resource; they can organize and train member-volunteers to help teachers bring "real" science to the classroom. The Microscopy Society of America (MSA) became part of the effort with Project MICRO (Microscopy In Curriculum - Research Outreach). MICRO puts MSA members, teaching materials, and microscopes in middle school classrooms nationwide. The idea began in '93, but took a lot of time and effort to implement. MSA's early decision to collaborate with experienced science educators at the Lawrence Hall of Science (LHS) of the University of California at Berkeley was a wise one; their educational materials have a well-earned national reputation for excellence. The first phase of MICRO was completed in July '98 with the publication of a teacher's manual, Microscopic Explorations, in the LHS GEMS (Great Explorations in Math and Science) series. A description of the collaboration between MSA and the LHS that produced Microscopic Explorations appears in the online journal Cell Biology Education. Its fourth revised reprinting was in 2007; 12.000 copies have been sold since 1998.
MICRO gained an unexpected major benefit from its association with the LHS. The main problem faced by other scientific societies that have outreach programs has been national support of training, both for teachers and volunteers. The LHS/GEMS program was so successful that they soon outgrew their ability to provide enough in-house trainers to meet the demand. So in the period since MICRO's inception, a highly trained category of teacher-trainer, "GEMS Associates" has been developed. There now are hundreds of them, all over the country. GEMS Associates can help MSA's local societies organize programs, and in areas that aren't served by participating local societies, they can invite individual microscopist-volunteers to attend GEMS workshops and then help them find a teacher to work with.
Will you be a MICRO volunteer? It would take far too much space here to provide the reasons that you're needed; the National Academy of Sciences has compiled them all on an excellent website www.nas.edu//rise/chap4.htm; please read it.
When it's possible to get a microscopist-volunteer into the classroom to help present the material, much can be accomplished. The availability of volunteers encourages hesitant teachers to use microscopy. Microscopist-volunteers take the enthusiasm generated by the manual content down many lines of inquiry, to be determined by the needs of the classes and the interests of the volunteers. MSA supports organized volunteer programs through its Local Affiliate Societies. In 2006, the Minnesota Microscopy Society celebrated the tenth year of a very successful outreach. The New England society has programs in the Boston area, Burlington, Vermont and Bar Harbor, Maine. You'll find addresses for these programs elsewhere in this site. Several other programs relied on grant funding that has expired (Arizona, North Carolina) and are inactive. Let's start some new ones!
Where do we go from here? The testing imposed by "No Child Left Behind" places new demands on teachers who still need help in teaching science. Detailed science curricula like 'Microscopic Explorations" have fallen on hard times; in too many elementary and middle schools 'test prep' consumes the time that once was available for science education. MICRO isn't just a manual. MICRO's goal is to bring the excitement of the micro-world to the classroom, and to show children that they can "think like scientists".
Fortunately, there is a very effective, independently published guide, The Private Eye (5X) Looking/Thinking by Analogy, that fits into the constraints given to teachers more easily than Microscopic Explorations in many classrooms; please see the entry in the MICRO booklist, and the Wikipedia description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Private_Eye_Project. Two YouTube descriptions of The Private Eye approach have appeared recently; if you're doing or planning any outreach, you'll find them helpful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-0qC44Og0Q and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swVWmCRCjGA&feature=related. The next few years should be exciting, productive, and rewarding.
FREE SAMPLES FOR TEACHERS!
Don't miss MICRO's Sand Collection
QUOTES ABOUT MICROSCOPY
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