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AAAS President Calls for More Science Support for K-12 Education

By guest blogger Sarah D. Sparks

Scientists must become more involved in educating the public about science and supporting K-12 students' interest in science, according to Alice S. Huang, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The AAAS annual research convention opens today in Washington, D.C. under the theme "Science Without Borders," and Ms. Huang told reporters in a morning briefing that improving science education, particularly for students of disadvantaged backgrounds, will be one of the central themes of her keynote address tonight.

Ms. Huang, a member of New York-based public interest polling group Public Agenda, pointed to their polls on public understanding of science in the past decade.

"Their results are that the public feels that there is enough science being taught, that their children know about science and that they're perfectly happy with it," she said, "which is a surprise to me and to many people, because as we test people in the United States, we realize that there's still a large proportion of the population that believes that the sun goes around the earth rather than the earth going around the sun, and other such beliefs that just really show a lack of understanding of basic science. ... So most scientists feel there is a real problem in science education. AAAS, as well as the National Academy of Sciences and the National Science Foundation have spent over 25 years toiling in this particular area, particularly in K-12, and we're beginning to see some small improvements there."

The group's Project 2061, for example, has worked to evaluate science and math textbooks for schools, develop a digital library of lesson-plan materials for teachers, and other activities to improve science instruction.

Ms. Huang would not comment directly on President Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget request, which provides some increases for education and research in the midst of an otherwise more austere proposal, but she obliquely supported it, noting that "there's only a limited amount of money around and we do have to live within our means," but added, "I feel in relation to countries that are progressing economically and investing very much in their future especially through science and education, that we must not let those two things go in this country."

For more education news from the AAAS conference over the weekend, check in with the Inside School Research blog.

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