WASHINGTON, Nov. 23, 2009 — The American Chemical Society (ACS) today commended President Obama for announcing the establishment of National Lab Day, a major new science education initiative designed to increase community-based collaborations between scientists, engineers, teachers and students.
“We are proud to respond to the President’s call to elevate hands-on learning to an entirely new level in this country,” said ACS President Thomas H. Lane. “Improving the ability of our young people to excel in science and technology is absolutely essential if we are to compete successfully in the global economy.”
The first National Lab Day is tentatively set for early May 2010. But the new initiative is intended to be much more than a single day event. ACS and other organizers hope National Lab Day will help stimulate more hands-on science learning by fostering enduring collaborations between individual science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) professionals, teachers and students.
"This bold initiative promises to fill a significant gap in our nation's science education,” Lane said. “And that is, most students do not understand or realize what scientists do everyday to improve people's lives. By bringing students face-to-face with scientists, by showing them the boundless potential that science has to stimulate their intellectual palates and stir up their passion for learning, we can embolden them to seek out solutions to our most pressing scientific challenges and create a world that none of us can yet imagine."
National Lab Day emerged from a collaboration earlier this year among the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the ACS, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and other scientific professional groups.
In addition to ACS and NSTA, more than 190 organizations representing more than 6.5 million STEM professionals and educators have pledged support for National Laboratory Day. They have committed to work together to build 10,000 “communities of support” as the result of the individual connections between K-12 educators and STEM professionals —with the potential to reach more than 1 million students — during the coming year.
ACS and NSTA jointly co-chair the STEM Education Coalition, which led the effort to gather support for this new initiative. The effort is also supported by numerous business groups as well as the National Science Foundation, the The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Jack D. Hidary Foundation.
ACS support for National Laboratory Day reflects the Society’s long history of reaching out to students, teachers and the general public through activities that promote the wonders of science.
In late October, for instance, ACS kicked off its 20th annual celebration of National Chemistry Week at Ballou Senior High School in the District of Columbia. During those festivities, more than 450 students had the opportunity to participate in 12 hands-on science experiments, covering a broad range of scientific topics including the fundamentals of chemical bonds, producing oxygen and determining the electrical conductivity of liquids.
In addition, ACS, in conjunction with Merck & Co., Inc., presented the school’s science teachers with the first of more than 12,000 copies of The Merck Index that were donated that week to high school teachers nationwide. Considered “the chemist’s constant companion,” The Merck Index describes more than 18,000 commonly used substances found on our planet.
Earlier this month, Lane pledged continued ACS support for science education at Ballou in the spirit of National Lab Day.
“ACS is committed to providing students at Ballou Senior High School with ongoing educational experiences that hopefully will inspire many of them to consider careers in chemistry and other scientific professions,” Lane said. “And now that the first National Lab Day is close at hand, I suspect that many similar partnerships between professional scientific organizations, such as ours, and schools will become commonplace. I hope National Lab Day will spark tremendous interest in science among students and encourage them to become the scientific innovators that this nation so desperately needs.”
— Doug Dollemore