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Help NIH Bring Hands-On Science into K-12 Classrooms

lab challenge logoScience literacy has grown among the adult citizenry of the United States during the past couple decades, and we need to continue this positive trend. Undergraduate curriculum is one way to do this, but engaging people even earlier, during the formative K-12 years, can provide the spark of interest that may burn for a lifetime. Hands-on experiences, such as actually conducting experiments, are great ways to introduce kids to the joys of science. So we’re going there and you can help us do this by participating in a new initiative—the NIH Lessons About Bioscience (LAB) Challenge.

This online challenge asks people to help bring hands-on science into the classroom by submitting engaging experiments for elementary, middle, or high school students. We are especially interested in entries from scientists. I am sure that many of you, or your graduate students or postdocs, visit local schools from time to time and have a favorite experiment you bring along. Consider submitting it.

The goal of the LAB Challenge is to identify hands-on experiments that:

  • are geared toward grades K–12,
  • can be done using easily available, inexpensive materials,
  • take no more than 90 minutes total of in-class time,
  • have a clear learning objective, and
  • are related to the NIH mission.

Submissions will be accepted until December 1, 2011. A panel of educators, students, and scientists will pick the top entries and announce the winners on March 1, 2012. The collection of experiments will be available for free in print, online, and on mobile devices. Winners of the NIH LAB Challenge will have their name and organization published in the final collection. In addition, they will receive an official winners badge that can be displayed on social media sites and websites. 

I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with!

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4 thoughts on “Help NIH Bring Hands-On Science into K-12 Classrooms

  1. Pingback: NIH lesson plan contest : Columbia University Neuroscience Outreach

  2. Hello,

    I am a parent at an elementary school. I was one of the founders of our hands on science program which now delivers UT state core hands on science to over 500 students K-6 each and every month. I applaud your collection of appropriate K-12 hands-on, inexpensive, and accessible experiments.

    I have several additional and practical comments:
    1. Proofed. As someone who has searched the internet for good labs I can tell you that they have to be adapted so often because they are too complicated, are not geared for the right audience (done by adults wo truthing it with kids) or require too much materials or time. Please, please include a criteria that the lab be proofed in an actual class for instruction in 45-60 minutes.

    2. Hands on science requires a commitment by an entire school. Doing hands on science needs a dedicated room, parent volunteers (1 parent to 5 kids) and hopefully a part time dedicated science instructor. Without these ingredients class sizes over 20 (many are in the 30’s) there is no practical way to deliver hands on science.

    Please consider these issues when designing your program and the “challenge”. I would hate to see all your hard efforts not go forward because of practical issues that were overlooked.

    If there was an opportunity for our school to participate in this program in some way like being a pilot school or in some other capacity please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Best wishes,

    Chris C

    • Chris C,
      Thank you so much for taking the time to write us about our contest! We’re working on ways to test all the qualified submissions, and we’re hoping that people will be able to do most of them in small groups and inexpensively. We really appreciate your offering to help test the submissions and may be getting back in touch with you later this fall. Good luck with all your hands-on-science efforts!

      Cindy Allen, NIH LAB Challenge;

  3. I am greatly encouraged about such efforts by the NIH to advance K-12 science education. But what is the evidence that science literacy has grown among the adult U.S. population? Repeated surveys, by the Pew Foundation and the N.S.F. among others, have found that the acceptance of evolution has actually declined in this country! More than 50% of U.S. adults think that dinosaurs coexisted with humans. According to a Washington Post survey, 22% of U.S. adults think that the sun revolves around the earth. These gloomy statistics are a reflection on both the rise of fundamentalism in this country, and the poor job that scientists have done in communicating facts to the general public. We clearly need to do much better.

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