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One hundred twenty-seven research institutions applied, and on June 19, the Center's Science Education Partnership was among 31 programs to receive a five-year pre-college outreach grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The $696,000 grant will support the SEP's ongoing operational costs. This is something few science-education grants will do, said Dr. Nancy Hutchison, SEP director. "Yet such grant dollars are crucial. Together with our Center budget, the funds support our key program components: teacher professional development, the Kit Loan Program, technical support for SEP teachers, and our work with scientists, especially the molecular and cellular biology graduate students working with us as teaching assistants. The best thing about this award is that it allows us to continue the SEP community that we have worked to build since 1991."
The purpose of the $22.5 million Pre-college Outreach Initiative is to close the gap between research institutions and their local communities by supporting educational programs with a record of success in stimulating interest in science, particularly among young students.
"The HHMI grants are highly competitive, so we are excited and gratified to win an award," Hutchison said. "SEP is one of the few programs that have won awards in each HHMI science-education grant competition since the initial 1994 round. Being an HHMI grantee allows us to easily interact with other programs across the country."
The institutions receiving the grants, which range from $529,308 to $750,000, include medical schools, hospitals, research institutions, a school of dentistry and a school of veterinary medicine. Like the Center's SEP, each grantee has individualized programs and activities to enhance the understanding and appreciation of science within its community. Their outreach efforts target students from kindergarten to 12th grade, as well as teachers, families and other community members.
"These grants provide a unique opportunity for the biomedical research community to provide hands-on experiences and rich content to students and teachers, extending their impact to a broader range of the education continuum," said Peter J. Bruns, HHMI's vice president for grants and special programs.
Many of the grantees aim to improve science education by enhancing teachers' knowledge of scientific concepts and processes. These programs will help teachers develop hands-on, inquiry-based activities that they can share with their students. Other projects will target students directly, teaching them to how to think like scientists. And some will enhance parents' and other community members' understanding of scientific concepts, thereby strengthening the support available to foster the interest of the children.
The largest privately funded education initiative of its kind in the United States, HHMI's grants program is enhancing science education for students at all levels. Since 1988, HHMI has awarded approximately $1.5 billion in grants.