The NIH Director
From the NIH Director — National Lab Day
March 11, 2010
I know we share a commitment to making sure that the kids in our communities get a solid science education and experience the excitement of what it means to be a scientist. That is why I am going to spend some time this April in a Washington, D.C., school doing hands-on science and talking about what makes science and discovery so cool to me. I am writing to ask you to do the same.
National Lab Day is a new program that will make it easy for you to spend some time with a local middle or high school science teacher and her or his classroom. It’s a bit weird that it’s called a “day,” since it really helps you link up with teachers who are asking for help at any time during the year. But that is good, because it gives you plenty of flexibility, and maybe you will want to build a continuing relationship with the school.
Most of us spend our days thinking about experiments and writing papers and may not realize that our 15-year-olds in the U.S. rank a disappointing 29th out of 57 countries in science achievement. Because of this, President Obama called on “all 200,000 scientists who work for the Federal government to do their part in their communities: to speak at schools, to create hands-on learning opportunities through efforts like National Lab Day, and to help stoke that same curiosity in students which perhaps led them to pursue a career in science in the first place.” Consistent with NIH’s mission to encourage the next generation of researchers, supervisors have discretion to approve appropriate activities as official duties.
While we aspire to ignite a flame in the next generation of scientists we may not have known where to start—until now. We have created the Scientists Volunteer for Education Web page, where you can learn about volunteer opportunities, find answers to your questions, and join the many others who have already signed up: http://science.education.nih.gov/ScientistsVolunteer.
(Please note that this NIH Web site will direct you to http://www.nationallabday.org to register with National Lab Day, but if the Web browser on your computer is Internet Explorer version 6, you will not be able to access that site. If that is the case for you, please contact the NIH Help Desk about addressing the situation at your office work station.)
Every day, teachers are requesting a scientist’s advice or help. Let’s work to ensure that none of them are disappointed!
Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.