The NSF GK-12 program is an outstanding example of an initiative tackling science illiteracy head on. It prepares graduate students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to be better communicators by bringing them into K-12 classrooms. They work closely with students and teachers through hands-on activities and make science real and relevant for the communities where they are instituted. I’ve worked with many students and professionals involved in this wonderful program over the years and have been extremely impressed. Many colleagues and friends who have participated say GK-12 has had a tremendous influence on their trajectories beyond graduate school. As I visit universities to talk about improving science communication, many professors bring up their own experiences with this initiative and praise the way it brings science to students around the country. The only aspect I do not like is that funding at each institution only lasts a few years, so successful programs are unable to continue past the term they are allotted. That said, according to the website, GK-12 has benefited over 10,000 STEM graduate students, 11,000 teachers, 5,000 schools, and as many as 600,000 K-12 students.
I am shocked to learn that NSF has decided to cancel the program. According to Science, the decision has been made because graduate student participants do not outperform their peers in research. But as Miriam points out, GK-12 fellows do become better teachers, communicators, and advocates for science education–which was the entire purpose of the program!
So I am calling on every reader to stand up for science! Chris and I care deeply about this issue and it’s the subject of our book, Unscientific America. Please write a letter of support for GK-12 imploring your representatives to restore funding for the program. Everything you need to know is here, including templates and more information about what we may lose.