Encouraging Young Scientists at the American Museum of Natural History
Recently the Urban Advantage Middle School Exit Project Initiative marked the end of another successful year with its 2nd Annual City-Wide Science Expo. Seven institutions (the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH), the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Botanical Garden, the Staten Island Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society) and the New York City Department of Education teamed up to form Urban Advantage, an educational program offering professional development in research skills, resources and equipment for students and schools, visits to the participating institutions, and events for participants throughout New York City. With over 20,000 students, 195 teachers, and over 60 schools involved in 2006, the number of participants had increased by more than two-thirds since last year and Urban Advantage continues to reach out to schools.
“Today’s fair is a celebration of the efforts to take on the challenges we face in promoting science education in New York City schools,” exclaimed Myles Gordon, Vice President of Education at the AMNH. Dr. Julia Rankin, Director of Science Education for the Department of Education also praised the program’s success and emphasized the urgency in helping students develop their scientific skills. Dr. Rankin urged listeners, “do not let a child’s interest in science fade. Lobby your city council for more programs. Council members are finally listening to science, but this is only a start.”
Following the opening remarks, attention shifted to the stars of the show, the students and their science projects. Over 30 projects were displayed in the Milstein Hall of Science of the American Museum of Natural History. Underneath the giant blue whale suspended from the hall’s ceiling, students proudly presented their experiments and explained how they arrived at their conclusions. The projects included the effect of ultra-violet light on bacteria growth, a study of fish behavior and interactions, the effect of a fast-food diet, the factors and principles affecting engine efficiency, and more. When asked what they liked about science, many students said they enjoyed making discoveries. As Sigrid S. Buchbinder of the New York City Museum School commented, “science is challenging, which makes it fun and I want to help people, maybe by finding a cure for AIDS or other diseases.”
Teachers were also enthusiastic about the program. According to Laura Klancer of District 75, “were it not for the Urban Advantage program, my students would have just done book reports. However, the resources that Urban Advantage provided gave me ideas for science projects that excited my students.” Dr. Delores Beckham, Principal of Intermediate School 145 also advocated the program and would like to see it include other grades. Currently, Urban Advantage is mainly offered to 8th graders.
In discussing the plans for next year’s agenda, Hudson Roditi, Director of Urban Advantage, stated that they would like to eventually include other grades in the program and are hoping for continued support from sponsors and the Department of Education. According to Roditi, the program’s organizers were surprised by the magnitude of responses they received from teachers and students, which indicates “a great need for science education programs like Urban Advantage.”#