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Science Education Booth Debuts at Teachers Convention

By Cynthia Delgado

Horses vying for the Triple Crown at Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course have steel starting gates to hold them back. Teachers racing for the latest innovative education materials at San Diego's recent National Science Teachers Association convention had only a thin red ribbon and a single concierge to keep them at bay. Shortly after the ribbon-cutting, more than 13,000 teachers formed a human stampede and rushed the convention center. Staff from the NIH Office of Science Education were there to receive them and handed out thousands of publications and other resources.

The week-long meeting, held in the San Diego Convention Center, marked the realization of a dream: the debut of OSE's new exhibit booth. OSE worked closely with Dick Hickman and Karen Cook from NIH's Medical Arts & Photography Branch, who designed the booth's graphics, and with Jim Day, senior exhibit consultant, and the solutions design department from Nomadic Display, a Springfield, Va., company that developed the framework. The collaboration established a "blue sky dream — a show-stopper," says Day. Key features include flexibility of size, ample storage and display areas, a 23-inch computer monitor and ease in set-up. The exhibit also features OSE's logo; back-lit pillars display the names of NIH's 27 institutes and centers.

Attendees at the National Science Teachers Association convention burst onto the exhibit floor.

OSE's mission is to help people understand and use new knowledge uncovered by NIH. The office works toward this goal by distributing literally tons of free NIH resources to the public at major conferences each year. For the NSTA conference alone, "over 6,000 pounds of NIH materials were distributed," said Terry Clark, OSE conference manager. Handling this volume is no small task. To prepare for the show, "a detailed plan-o-gram" was created to optimize the new display's appearance and efficiency, she said. Likewise, Jim Chin, computer consultant, added audiovisual appeal to the new exhibit monitor with a PowerPoint presentation that ran continuously and included the Introduction to NIH video.

The NIH curriculum supplements were among the hot items requested. Teachers paused to write paragraphs of praise. They are "the best curriculum I have ever used," said Elaine Westbrook of Omaha, Neb. Comments revealed that students appreciate the interactive computer simulations and activities. Teachers value up-to-date materials and the inquiry-based instructional approach of the units. OSE has already received over 20,000 requests for the three new supplements about to be released (visit for details).

The activities were "very engaging, and teacher-student friendly," said Sheila Smith of Jackson, Miss.

Michigan teacher Paul Niehaus said the units are formally written into his school's science curriculum and "well-received by the students and staff."

Students who use the curricula "appreciate what research scientists have to undergo," said Cindy Miyada of Downey, Calif.

Other favorites include NIGMS's booklets — Chemistry of Health, Structures of Life, and Genetic Basics — and NCI's new kit Cells, Genes, and Protein Machines, and their five basic science tutorials, including Understanding Gene Testing.

What makes these items fly off the shelves? Debra Knorr, director of outreach programs at OSE, believes these institutes have been particularly effective in producing the kinds of materials that can readily be incorporated into K-12 and university classrooms. "Teachers are eager to acquire free, authoritative educational materials that provide clear explanations of basic biological concepts and that help students understand the link between basic research and personal health," she said.

The new OSE exhibit booth is swarmed by customers at a teachers' convention in San Diego.

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