Most students and teachers learn about science by reading about it long after the research is complete and published by the press. Only the most academically-elite students and teachers experience, firsthand, how science actually works. One organization is creating a new blueprint for generating the next generation of scientists and explorers
On November 15, 2007, 10 Chicago area high school students and three teachers will join University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno at National Geographic Headquarters in Washington DC to announce a major discovery—the unveiling of a 30-foot long skeleton of a dinosaur from the Sahara that mowed down ferns some 110 million years ago.
To ready this "Nigersaurus Delegation” of scientists-in-the-making, Project Exploration engaged them in every aspect of the research leading up to the press announcement. Delegates have participated in science fieldwork, toured the fossil lab where the new species was reconstructed, completed a day of training by lead scientists, and studied the pre-press scientific reports and media alerts.
The delegation will take these experiences online and present them to the public via www.projectexploration.org.
Project Exploration, a Chicago nonprofit science education aims to chart new paths to get students of all backgrounds engaged in science. “Participating in science in the making and meeting real scientists is key to getting students interested in science and to keeping them interested in science," explains Executive Director Gabrielle Lyon, who in addition to cofounding and directing Project Exploration, was a member of the team that unearthed Nigersaurus.
"I'm so thankful for all the science opportunities that Project Exploration has given me. I’m so excited to go to D.C. to learn about something new in science that has been discovered and that no one knows about yet." – Arieshae Parker, DuSable Leadership Academy
"I feel so lucky to be one of only 10 students picked to be a part of such a unique experience and I am excited to work with scientists again" – Tommie Collins, ACE Technical High School
"This kind of experience is usually limited to an exclusive group of reporters and scientists. Project Exploration is offering students and teachers a unique opportunity to see how science works in real life and how it intersects with fields like writing and communication," said Mike Lach, Director of Science for Chicago Public Schools.
Helping students personally understand how science works is a critical element in Project Exploration’s Nigersaurus project which includes a travelling exhibit, professional development for teachers, and the launch of an interactive, content-rich free website.
Project Exploration’s website offers the public opportunities to see “science in action” firsthand. The Nigersaurus website highlights work by the Nigersaurus Delegates, and includes in-depth features with scientists and artists, a photo gallery, interviews, and classroom activities.
During the expedition that unearthed Nigersaurus in 2000 Project Exploration’s website enabled more than 500 Illinois students to correspond directly with Sereno’s expedition team while it was in the field. In addition, 60,000 people from 12 states and 14 countries followed the expedition online as the team faced sandstorms, 130 degree heat, and excavated more than 20,000 tons of fossils.
Project Exploration is a nonprofit science education organization cofounded by Sereno and his wife, educator Gabrielle Lyon, dedicated to making science accessible to the public – especially minority youth and girls – through personalized experiences with science and scientists. Through youth development programs such as Sisters4Science, Junior Paleontologists, Science Teacher Field Institute, and free resources such as “Discover Your Summer” a guide to summer science opportunities, Project Exploration works to connect kids and families firsthand with the excitement of scientific discovery.
NIGERSAURUS STUDENT DELEGATES
• Clarence Boyles, 10th grade, Perspectives Charter School – Calumet campus
• Tommie Collins, 11th grade, ACE Technical Charter High School
• Kassandra Davis, 10th grade, Young Women’s Leadership Charter School
• Quyeisha Dykes, 11th grade, ACE Technical Charter High School
• Clarissa Galvan, 11th grade, Perspectives Charter School – South Loop campus
• Michael Laureano, 10th grade, Noble Street Charter School – Pritzker College
• Chuck Mogbo, 11th grade, John Hope College Preparatory High School
• Mariana Moldonado, 10th grade, Noble Street Charter School – Pritzker College
• Arieshae Parker, 9th grade, DuSable Leadership Academy
• Miguel Ruiz, 10th grade, Amundsen High School
NIGERSAURUS TEACHER DELEGATES
• Donna Calder, Metcalf Community Academy
• Dimitri Hepburn, Legacy Charter School
• Matthew Knoepke, Homewood-Flossmoor High School
• Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director, Project Exploration
• Kristin Atman, Program Director, Project Exploration
• Elena Schroeter, Youth Programs Coordinator, Project Exploration