FEd April 1995 Newsletter - Local Education Outreach

April 1995



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James J. Wynne
IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center


At IBM, we take seriously our responsibility to help our schools achieve the goal articulated by former President Bush and the National Governors Association, and reaffirmed by President Clinton, that "By the year 2000, U. S. students will be first in the world in science and mathematics achievement." We need American schools to produce an increasing number and diversity of high-quality scientists, engineers, and technical support personnel to ensure American leadership in the global technological marketplace. We need a scientifically literate and technically skilled workforce to populate our technically more sophisticated workplace. And we need to have our young people equipped with sufficient understanding of science and mathematics to serve as informed members of a society that has to grapple with problems ranging from environmental pollution to cost-effective medical care.

At the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center we have a Local Education Outreach (LEO) program that marshals the resources of our science-rich institution to enhance science and mathematics education in our local schools. The LEO program, begun in 1988, features broad and deep partnerships between the Research Center and many local school districts. Descriptions of some of our activities follow.


Student Recognition Luncheons: Each month, the partner high schools select a science student and a math student who are cited for some noteworthy achievement. The selection criteria include excellence in normal classroom activities, initiative in areas outside normal classroom activities, tutoring other students, marked improvement in performance, and unusual creativity. These students are invited to the Research Center as our guests of honor, where they meet students from other high schools with similar interests. We also ask the schools to send a science teacher and a math teacher. Following lunch, all of the guests are taken on laboratory tours/demonstrations, which have included physics topics such as scanning tunneling microscopy, laser spectroscopy, superconductivity, semiconductors, surface science, and mesoscopic physics. Both the students and the teachers benefit from exposure to the technical topics that make up the tours/demonstrations, becoming more aware of challenging career opportunities. The teachers who attend these luncheons tell us repeatedly how valuable it is for them to meet adults who use the subject they teach in their everyday jobs. This "real world" exposure helps the teachers motivate their students by providing a bridge between the classroom and the workplace.

Family Science:

Our primary resource for enhancing science and mathematics education is our own employees. The desire of many of our employees to volunteer for a program geared for young children led to the Saturday morning activity of Family Science. We put together a series of hands-on science workshops for 3rd to 5th grade children and their parents. Children are selected from local elementary schools in the districts where the IBM volunteers live. The primary goals are to expose the children and their parents to science and to demonstrate the relevance of science to the students' lives. Topics include Sound and Light, States of Matter and Kitchen Chemistry. To reach a larger audience than the students who attend our workshops, we ask these students to develop enough confidence and expertise to share their workshop experience with their classmates in school by conducting a workshop in class.

To reach still more students, we have added "Peer Teaching:" Several local school districts select high school students to attend our sessions, where they learn the techniques of hands-on science teaching. These students then conduct workshops in the elementary schools in their districts. The high school students are a resource for elementary school teachers who need help in science teaching. Additionally, this exposure to the joys of teaching may encourage the peer In This Issue