Advising the White House on Science Education
- April 24, 2015 -

Some of you may have seen on the HSI Facebook page that we were recently invited to speak at the White House about science education. It’s been nearly a month since then, and we’re just now finding time to share some more details of the event with you—not because we’re not excited about the occasion, but because things have been really busy here.

Photo by Zach Rudisin, Wikimedia Commons

The opportunity to go to Washington came about when we were contacted by a representative of the White House Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP), who had heard about the science education work we do, specifically our Student Driven Research (SDR), and wanted to learn more about it. We were really excited by the opportunity to share our ideas with some of the most influential scientists and educators in the country.

The meeting was attended by several different members of the OSTP and consisted of Megan, our HSI representative, explaining the motivation and inspiration for developing SDR, and giving an overview of the protocol, then fielding questions. Our ideas seemed to be well received by the White House science team, and sparked a lot of related conversations about how SDR could be applied to some of the big problems evident in our nation’s current science education structure.

The conversations that followed our presentation were really interesting and diverse—too diverse to recap here in their entirety. Suffice it to say that HSI has a lot of new ideas, opportunities, and challenges that we’ll be working on in the coming months as a result of this meeting.

One discussion that developed during the roughly 90-minute meeting that we can share by way of example centered on SDR as a potential tool for high school science teachers all across the country to be able to use in their own classrooms repeatedly throughout the course of a school year. This is definitely a topic that we at HSI had talked about before the trip to the White House, but afterward it became clear that the need to develop and disseminate SDR for this purpose might be more pressing than we had originally believed.

One of the consequences of this development is that HSI is now looking for high school science teachers eager to gain a new teaching strategy that we think can be revolutionary in improving student engagement, critical thinking, and learning outcomes. In the near future we would like to solidify a small group of such teachers to pilot SDR in their classrooms, while working closely with HSI to give us the feedback we need to refine our practices for this specific application. This would be a very inexpensive way to learn about and give invaluable feedback on a big new idea in science education. If you or someone you know are interested, please contact us.

So in summary: Megan addressed some very highly respected science/education people at the White House. They were excited about what HSI does. No, the President was not at the meeting. And, perhaps the most embarrassing thing about the experience: we don’t have any White House selfies or group photos to illustrate it! However, the most positive outcome for HSI is that we will continue working with our new contacts at the OSTP, which will hopefully make accomplishing our goals of improving science education across the country that much easier to achieve.