News August 19, 1999
Bayer/NSF Award Addresses Critical Need to Link Youth and Community
Opportunity Offered to All U.S. Middle School Students
WASHINGTON, D.C., August 19, 1999 Finding more and better ways to involve students in their communities is a critical challenge for the nation. To help bridge the gap, Bayer Corporation, National Science Foundation and Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation are offering an exceptional opportunity to all U.S. middle school students, challenging them to experience real-world community problem-solving by entering the Bayer/NSF Award.
Now accepting entries for the 1999-2000 school year, the Bayer/NSF Award takes students in grades 6-8 through a rewarding process, teaching them how to use science and technology to identify a community problem and develop a solution. The students step beyond the classroom and into the community, working in teams to identify an issue, develop and test solutions and tap community leaders and experts as resources.
Experts say this kind of community interaction can help young people lead responsible, healthy lives and prevent the harmful effects of the isolation that can plague adolescents.
"The Bayer/NSF Award can provide an essential experience in helping young people develop a sense of community and their value in it," says Christine R. Hartel, Ph.D., Associate Executive Director for Science at the American Psychological Association and member of the Bayer/NSF Award Advisory Committee. "It's a virtually unique opportunity for this age group, reaching kids at a time when lessons about self-confidence and their ability to make a difference are more likely to stick."
The program, which has no entry fee, is designed to attract students of all abilities and interests. During the 1998-99 school year, the program's third year, nearly 2,000 students representing 500 teams entered nationwide.
Shining Examples of What's Right With Youth
Bayer/NSF Award teams are shining examples of what's right with American youth. Teams in previous years have tackled a wide range of issues, ranging from environmental protection and playground safety to the education of homeless students, often identifying solutions overlooked by adults. Two 1998-99 finalist teams identified critical school bus safety issues; a third provided a measure of relief to arthritis sufferers.
Program Brings Dramatic Results for Teachers
"The Bayer/NSF Award is exactly the kind of educational experience needed for middle school students," says Sue Swaim, Executive Director of the National Middle School Association, which has endorsed the program. "It incorporates many recommendations of the National Science Education Standards, emphasizing teamwork, inquiry and real-world situations."
"These kids have learned skills it usually takes years to develop," adds Jo Ella Allen, a Bayer/NSF Award coach and teacher from Antelope Crossing, Calif.
"I don't know of any other program that helps kids make the connection between science and community in such a powerful way," adds Carrie Reardon, a Bayer/NSF Award coach and teacher from Manassas, Va.
An Opportunity for Every Student
To prepare their Bayer/NSF Award entry, students work in teams of four under the guidance of an adult coach. They test their ideas, refine them, and use their own creativity, curiosity and critical thinking skills to develop an innovative solution.
Most students work under the direction of their teachers, who often incorporate the competition into their lesson plans. Other entries come from extra-curricular groups like the Girl and Boy Scouts, 4-H Clubs, YMCAs and YWCAs; the Bayer/NSF Award also has attracted entries from home-schooled middle schoolers.
After judging in April 2000, semi-finalists and finalists will be named in each of 10 regions, and national winners will be selected from among 10 finalist teams in early June.
Rewarding Prizes Motivate Students
The Bayer/NSF Award offers significant rewards, including:
How To Get Involved
Interested students and coaches should visit www.nsf.gov/bayer-nsf-award.htm or call 1-800-291-6020 for an application and competition guidelines. Deadline for entries is January 31, 2000.