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Geology Museum and Arboretum Get $625,000 for K-12 Science Education

July 11, 1997

With help from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), elementary, middle and high school science teachers from Wisconsin and beyond will have the opportunity to experience science first hand through the UW–Madison Arboretum and Geology Museum.

The Geology Museum and Arboretum each received separate grants and were among 45 museums and science-based institutions nationwide that received four-year grants from HHMI to help bring science to life for precollege students.

Geology Museum
The Geology Museum at UW–Madison will use a $200,000 grant to teach teachers and high school students how to collect, preserve and prepare fossil specimens.

At the Arboretum, which received a grant of $425,000, the “Earth Partnership Training Program” will help train Wisconsin elementary and high school teachers to carry out ecological restorations on school grounds, a process that helps both teachers and students learn the intricacies of different Wisconsin ecosystems and better understand the human relationship with nature, said Arboretum Director Gregory D. Armstrong.

The program, directed by Molly Murray, involves summer institutes for teachers, workshops and on-site consultation by Arboretum staff. It has proved to be an effective, hands-on way to teach the intricacies of ecosystem science and restoration ecology, Armstrong said.

At the Geology Museum, awarded a grant of $200,000 by HHMI, teachers and high school students will learn how to collect, preserve and prepare fossil specimens. In addition, they will learn how to research a subject in paleontology by defining a research question, performing the research and writing a scientific paper, according to Geology Museum Director Klaus Westphal.

Teachers in the program will also help develop paleontology lab kits with inquiry-based activities for teachers and their students.

The idea behind both programs, say Westphal and Armstrong, is to give K-12 teachers a realistic grounding in scientific practice by having them participate in bona fide scientific research. Teachers, in turn, return to the classroom with not only a better understanding of the scientific method, but with new ideas and ways to involve students in an active learning process.

“Teachers across the country are trying to move beyond textbooks and find ways for students to carry out their own scientific investigations,” says Purnell W. Choppin, president of HHMI, a medical research organization and the nation’s largest philanthropy. “Museums, botanical gardens, zoos and aquariums have a wealth of special resources and scientific expertise to assist schools and community groups. These collaborations can boost the quality of science education significantly.”

HHMI is a medical research organization, not a foundation. Its primary activity is the direct conduct of biomedical research by HHMI scientists at 72 locations nationwide. The Institute’s complementary grants program is the largest private initiative in U.S. history to enhance the quality of science education. Since 1988, HHMI has awarded more than $600 million to improve science education at all levels, and to support the research of scientists in selected countries outside of the United States.

CONTACT: Gregory Armstrong, (608) 262-2748; Klaus Westphal, (608) 262-2399

Tags: learning