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America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science
schools to study and work in laboratories at the NIH alongside some of the world’s leading biomedical scientists. Students who participate in this research program present their results at an annual symposium at HHMI headquarters. In addition to hosting these interns, NIH provides supplements to research grants for the purpose of providing internships to underrepresented minorities. The National Human Genome Research Institute of NIH also provides summer internships to high school students. Such internship opportunities are not restricted to large, government laboratory settings such as NIH. The Noble Foundation supports summer research internships in applied agriculture and plant science for high school students in Oklahoma (Noble Foundation, 2005).
Laboratory internships are often designed to encourage disadvantaged or minority high school students to choose science careers. The American Chemical Society’s Project SEED provides students with summer research internships guided by scientist-mentors. Students who are eligible and qualified may participate in Summer I internships before their senior year, in Summer II internships in the summer following graduation, and they may receive first-year college scholarships to study chemistry (American Chemical Society, 2005). Studies indicate that having personal contact with a scientist affects students’ preference for and persistence in science careers, and that minority students may be especially encouraged to persist in science studies by contact with minority scientists and engineers (Hill, Pettus, and Hedin, 1990; Barton, 2003).
Most people in this country lack the basic understanding about science that they need to make informed decisions about the many scientific issues affecting their lives. Neither this basic understanding—often referred to as scientific literacy—nor an appreciation for how science has shaped society and culture—is being cultivated during the high school years. For example, over the 30 years between 1969 and 1999, high school students’ scores on the science portion of the NAEP remained stagnant.
State policies regarding student laboratory experiences, including graduation requirements, higher education requirements, state science standards, and assessments, do not always support effective laboratory teaching and learning. Although state science standards could be used as flexible frameworks to guide schools and teachers in integrating laboratory experiences with the teaching of science concepts, this rarely happens. Instead, state and local officials and science teachers often see state standards as requiring them to help students master the specific science topics outlined for a grade level or science course. State science standards that are interpreted as encouraging the teaching of extensive lists of science topics in a given grade