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This year, NIH exhibitors did in unity what no single
institute or center can usually do — cranked up the NIH brand
at least one notch higher, effectively increasing the public's
understanding of the agency's identity, goals and achievements.
At the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) 2005 national
conference in Dallas, 12 ICs and associate organizations, including
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, clustered their
exhibits at the Dallas Convention Center to create an NIH aisle.
At events past, IC booths were scattered, making it nearly impossible
to convey the fact that the "I" in NIH denotes 27 ICs, not just
one or two. The NIH aisle may have given the more than 10,000 teachers
at NSTA a new perspective on the nation's leading medical research
Jason Lazarow of NIAAA first proposed the NIH aisle idea at a trans-NIH
science education resource group meeting. He chaired a SERG subcommittee
to make the idea a reality. Terry Clark, Office of Science Education
conference planner, spent more than a year coordinating the event.
The challenge was "identifying the appropriate contact person" from
each institute, she said. After trying numerous avenues to contact
exhibitors, in the end, success came by word of mouth. Clark donned
the role of liaison between the ICs and a NSTA convention coordinator.
A simple email to the coordinator explaining NIH's goals for the
event was a pivotal step towards achieving the objective.
|NIH’ers staff science teacher convention
Collaborative effort and a few accessories unified the IC exhibitors.
Visitors first knew they were entering a unique realm by the burgundy
carpet centered between the two rows of NIH exhibits, a striking
contrast to the predominant beige carpet elsewhere. "We didn't
have to pay extra [for the carpet].NSTA took care of that," said
Clark. They also centered a matching banner overhead at the entrance
of the aisle. The NIH Office of Communications and Public Liaison
worked with the Medical Arts and Photography Branch to develop
a unifying marker — a large vertical banner reading The Nation's
Medical Research Agency. "The NIH signage certainly led a number
of teachers to our booths and the overwhelming response was very
positive," said an NHGRI exhibitor.
||OSE’s Terry Clark
(l) and NSTA convention coordinator Jayne Saunders team up
to help create the NIH aisle.
NIH exhibitors and teachers appreciated the aisle arrangement.
Exhibitors thought it was easier to refer visitors to the appropriate
booth, and better underscored the NIH mission.
|Participants display their free curriculum
Teachers thought the aisle was great because of all the free materials
and the availability of experts who were knowledgeable about those
resources, said Clark. "Many teachers were impressed that the NIH
consisted of so many different entities with myriad valuable resources
for their classrooms," said an NHGRI exhibitor. An NINDS exhibitor
noted that it was "easier for participants to get the information
they wanted." The NIH aisle helped "teachers see the connection
of the institutes, the diversity of resources and the contribution
of NIH to our society," said an exhibitor with NIEHS.
|NIGMS and NINDS booths were
just two of many IC displays that formed the NIH aisle.
|NIH aisle before the masses arrive
Clark plans to recreate the NIH aisle next year, not just for
NSTA, but for several other regional conferences too. "Now we have
a starting place," she said.
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