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The National Science Education Standards begins with the following statements:
"In a world filled with the products of scientific inquiry, scientific literacy has become a necessity for everyone. Everyone needs to use scientific information to make choices that arise every day. Everyone needs to be able to engage intelligently in public discourse and debate about important issues that involve science and technology. And everyone deserves to share in the excitement and personal fulfillment that can come from understanding and learning about the natural world."
IBM understands that we need American schools to produce an increasing number and diversity of high-quality scientists, engineers, and technical support personnel to ensure American leadership in the global technological marketplace. We need a scientifically literate and technically skilled workforce to populate our technically more sophisticated workplace. And we need to have our young people equipped with sufficient understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to serve as informed members of a society that has to grapple with problems ranging from alternative forms of energy to environmental pollution, from safe and efficient forms of transportation to cost-effective medical care.
At the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Westchester County, New York, since 1988 we have had a Local Education Outreach (LEO) program that marshals the resources of our science-rich institution to enhance STEM education in our local schools. We have broad and deep partnerships between the Research Center and selected local school districts. Furthermore, we have offered activities that are open to students and teachers from school districts outside of Westchester County, including New York City.
LEO is a program that marshals the resources of the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center to enhance STEM education in our local schools.
These resources are primarily our technical people and our facilities. The 'local' in LEO refers to the communities proximate to our Yorktown Height, NY facitility and to Westchester County and surrounding areas where many of our employees live.
IBM Research's LEO program was created in 1988. The LEO staff has developed many programs for students and teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in elementary, middle and high school. The following is a program we have been offering every year since 1993:
Family Science Saturdays
IBM Research offers the Family Science Saturdays program for elementary school students in grades 4 and 5. This is a hands-on science program developed by scientists at IBM who believe that science should be fun!
Children work together with their parents on science experiments in:
- Kitchen Chemistry
- States of Matter
- Polymer Science
- Introduction to Electronics
- Wave Theory (New!)
The experiments are used to show children that science is part of everyday life, is something they can achieve and that it sometimes is messy and fun!
Children are selected from local elementary schools in the districts where the IBM volunteers live. The primary goals are to expose the children and their parents to science and to demonstrate the relevance of science to the students' lives. To reach a larger audience than the modest number of students who attend our workshops, we ask these children to discuss the workshop activities with their teachers and then share their workshop experience with their classmates in school by conducting a workshop in class.
To reach still more students, local Girl Scout troops and local school districts select Peer Teachers - high school and middle school students - to attend our sessions, where they assist the IBM instructors and learn the techniques of hands-on science teaching. These students then conduct workshops for Brownie Troops and in elementary school classrooms in their own districts. The older students are a resource for elementary school teachers who need help in science teaching. Additionally, this exposure to the joys of teaching encourages the peer teachers to consider teaching as a career option. The elementary school students who are taught by these high school and middle school students experience science learning in a fun-filled, non-threatening environment.