News September 3, 1998
Bayer/NSF Award Seeks Middle School Students With Big Ideas
Students Use Science and Technology to Solve Community Problems; Awards Include $25,000 Community Grant and Trip to Epcot
WASHINGTON, DC, Sept. 3, 1998The Bayer/NSF Award issued an exciting challenge to the nation's middle school students today, calling on them to develop big ideas to solve community problems.
"Kids often see problems, and solutions, that adults do not," explained Julia Moore of the National Science Foundation, a Bayer/NSF Award sponsor. "The Bayer/NSF Award recognizes that all students have a lot to contribute, and that by working together, they have the power to turn things around."
The Bayer/NSF Award is a dynamic program that challenges students in grades 6-8 to form teams of four and use science and technology to develop an innovative solution to a problem they identify in their community. It is sponsored by the Bayer Corporation, National Science Foundation and Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation with Discover Magazine.
"The Bayer/NSF Award is turning kids on to science and showing them the important connection between science and society," said Sande Deitch, director of the Bayer Corporation's Making Science Make Sense program to support inquiry-based science education and to promote science literacy.
Entries are due January 31, 1999. A panel of judges will select three semifinalists from each of 10 regions. One finalist will then be selected from each region.
For 10 Bayer/NSF Award finalist teams and their coaches, the rewards also include an all-expense paid trip to Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort, where they will compete for $36,000 in savings bonds and the $25,000 Columbus Foundation Community Grant, seed money to help one team bring its idea to life. The finalist teams also attend the Christopher Columbus Academy, a specially-designed program in which students learn by working alongside scientists, engineers and technical experts at the parks.
Breakthrough Thinking from Everyday Kids
Combining team members' curiosity, creativity and critical thinking skills with input from community leaders and mentors can produce break-through thinking:
New Approaches to Science Education
The Bayer/NSF Award provides students and teachers the opportunity to experience some of the most promising new trends in science education, including inquiry-based, cross-curricular learning, mentoring relationships and a focus on teamwork. "I really like the Bayer/NSF Award process," said teacher Mery Molenaar, coach of a 1998 finalist team from Boulder, Colo. "It mirrors how things work in the real world."
It's an approach that appeals to a broad range of students, including those from groups traditionally less likely to participate in science. Last year, 30% of entrants were minorities; 60% were girls.
"The Bayer/NSF Award is breaking down barriers to science participation," said Aaron Henderson, a member of the Bayer/NSF Award Steering Committee and industry consultant to Southeastern Consortium of Minority Engineers, a national program that helps introduce students, predominantly minorities, to career opportunities in science, engineering and technology. "It is an empowering experience. It builds pride."
Rosalyn Queen, chairperson of the Columbus Foundation, agreed. "This competition is based upon the idea that all children have the potential to succeed and to become community leaders," she said.
The program targets a critical age range in science education; studies indicate that middle school is the point at which U.S. students begin to fall behind their peers around the world in science achievement.
Many teams are school-based and are coached by their teachers, who often incorporate the competition into their lesson plans. Other entries come from extra-curricular groups such as the Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H Clubs, YMCAs and YWCAs, as well as home-school settings.
Something for Everyone
Entering its third year, the Bayer/NSF Award has attracted thousands of students and hundreds of teachers who have found it to be a highly rewarding experience. "The students on my team have learned life skills that usually take years to develop," said teacher Jo Ella Allen, coach of a 1998 finalist team from Antelope Crossing, Calif.
All middle school students are encouraged to participate. There is no entry fee, and teams often benefit by the participation of students with a variety of talents, perspectives and skills. Students and adults interested in forming a team should call 1-800-291-6020 or visit www.christophercolumbusawards.com to receive an application and competition guidelines.