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NSF Fuels Project to Connect Science and Literacy Education

Two national organizations are launching an initiative, backed by $2.4 million in federal aid, to bring together science centers and writing teachers to develop projects around the country that will integrate science learning with literacy instruction.

The effort, announced in a press release last week, aims to build on the call in the Common Core State Standards, as well as a recent framework for new science standards, to promote reading and writing instruction in science.

The National Writing Project and the Association of Science-Technology Centers will develop 10 "partnerships" nationwide to link up science and writing, the press release says, which may include citizen-science projects or science journalism. The grant from the National Science Foundation is over four years.

The common-core standards articulate a vision of promoting literacy across the curriculum, indicating that "instruction in reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language be a shared responsibility within the school."

In fact, as I noted in a recent blog post, many science teachers say they are already hearing from school administrators that they should carve out classroom time for literacy instruction in line with the common core. The document outlines specific objectives for such literacy learning in science, history/social studies, and technical fields.

Meanwhile, the National Research Council's framework guiding the development of common science standards, now being crafted by 26 states in partnership with a variety of educators and experts, also drives home the same idea.

"Being literate in science and engineering requires the ability to read and understand their literatures," the NRC panel said. "Communicating in written or spoken form is another fundamental practice of science; it requires scientists to describe observations precisely, clarify their thinking, and justify their arguments."

A summary of the grant award from the NSF website says the project will bring together science centers and museums with National Writing Project sites to "develop, test, and refine innovative programs" that integrate science with literacy. Content areas may include environmental science, sustainability, synthetic biology, and geoengineering, among others.

The project is projected to provide professional development for about 650 educators (450 in "informal" settings like science centers).

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