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Vol. LVII, No. 11
June 3, 2005

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Teachers Walk the NIH Red Carpet

On the front page...

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 agency.


NIH’ers staff science teacher convention in Dallas.  
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.

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 supplements.

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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