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NCI Staff Volunteer in Frederick Schools

The Elementary Outreach Program at the National Cancer Institute-Frederick is back in action for another school year. This program provides elementary school students supplemental, hands-on science training from NCI staff who work in Frederick.

Currently, 33 NCI volunteers are participating in the 2000-2001 program and have already completed several teaching assignments. Sessions run throughout the school year, with the last sessions usually given in late May or early June.

NCI volunteer teams provide science enrichment programs, sharing with students expertise and equipment that is not normally available to elementary schools. The lessons complement the school curriculum and are coordinated with the administrators of the school and the school system.

The opportunity for NCI to enlighten students about careers in scientific research is an important aspect of the program. NCI volunteers are from both administrative and scientific backgrounds, so the students learn that there are also careers in science for nonscientists.

The 1999-2000 school year was the first year a full program was presented at Hillcrest Elementary School, covering every class for grades 1 through 5. In addition, the volunteer teams presented their modules at several other Frederick County elementary schools. Although NCI's outreach staff are unable to make full presentations to all classes at every grade level, the 30 volunteers did spend more than 800 hours in service to the elementary schools last year.

Dr. Michael Dean, chief of the human genetics section, Laboratory of Genomic Diversity, NCI, started the Outreach Program as an informal partnership 10 years ago when his son was a student at Hillcrest Elementary. Because the children and teachers were so enthusiastic about the program, he continued to visit third-grade students year after year. During the 1997-1998 school year, NCI-Frederick became involved with the program at Dean's request. The program has since expanded and developed into a formal partnership with the Frederick County Public School system.

Dr. Marjorie Strobel, scientific operations manager of NCI-Frederick, fully supports the outreach. Besides providing funds, she teaches third-graders about marine algae and oceanography.

"The response of the NCI-Frederick community has been overwhelming," said Dean. "We have had dozens of volunteers, including scientists, librarians, engineers, security personnel and veterinarians. It is great for the students to see the variety of careers associated with science that are out there. Sometimes I am not sure who has more fun, the instructors or the students."

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