|Dr Robert Ballard|
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Titanic Explorer Robert Ballard Challenges Lawmakers to Make Science Education 'Top Priority'
WASHINGTON, DC /PRNewswire/ -- The oceanographer and explorer best known for discovering the Titanic urged federal lawmakers to continue investing in science education or "risk losing our standing as the most innovative and creative nation in the world."
"Inspiring and educating the next generation of scientists and explorers should be America's top priority, and our spending should reflect that sense of urgency," said Dr. Robert D. Ballard, professor at University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography, in a briefing Thursday sponsored by U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Roger Wicker (R-MS).
Ballard has continued to conduct global expeditions aboard his ship of exploration, the Nautilus, while championing science education through The JASON Project, a non-profit that he founded in 1989 and named for the mythological Greek explorer. Managed by National Geographic Society and Mystic, Conn.-based Sea Research Foundation, Inc. in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), JASON's goal is to transform education through a holistic approach that inspires and educates kids – inside the classroom and out – through real science and exploration. Evaluations show that the program, which has reached more than 11 million students, raises their mastery of science, technology and mathematics (STEM) while helping lower high school drop-out rates, especially among at-risk youth.
"All kids are born scientists and explorers, we just have to find ways to hook them, tap into their innate spirit, and keep them engaged in order to increase their academic proficiency," said Ballard. "JASON is leveraging live science events of the Nautilus, National Geographic, NOAA, Sea Research Foundation and many others to do just that."
Based at George Washington University's campus in Ashburn, Va., outside Washington, D.C., JASON puts students in real-world situations where they are connected with – and mentored by – top scientists. Rigorous digital and print curricula for grades 4-12 embed cutting-edge research, live interactive events, "breaking" science news, engaging simulations, social media, and hands-on labs and field assignments – all aligned to state and national science standards and assessments.
Outside the school day, JASON delivers complementary, standards-based academic enrichment activities for after school, mentoring and summer science camps developed in collaboration with Boys & Girls Clubs, the U.S. Department of Justice, museums and aquariums throughout the world. As a result, students can access powerfully integrated year-round "crosswalks" between informal and formal learning experiences.
Ballard's vision is to raise the proficiency of all students in STEM while accelerating the performance of high achievers. His remarks came in a briefing focused on generating support for ocean exploration and research, and using ocean exploration to ignite student interest in STEM education and careers.