It is not easy to learn these days what with fragmented educational system where knowledge is broken down into subjects and lectures loosing cohesiveness of ideas and thoughts. Aspiring students struggling in the prevailing fragmented educational system can benefit much from special internships and research opportunities offered though the Science Skills Center and the Center for Integrative Learning, see: http://www.scienceskillscenter.org/gpage10.html
Our mentoring philosophy
We mentor with the student in mind
Even though I am a Microbiologist by training, my interests are much broader than that. I would actually describe myself as a social scientist interested in all areas of our society which affect our lives. In this context I am especially interested in the changing state of education and how it affects the students the world over.
Consequently my mission and that of the above named centers I established is to conserve and perpetuate our accumulated knowledge in its entirety to the current and the future generations of human kind. This is important because the educational panorama has now so drastically changed especially with course cutting, eliminating hands-on labs including watering down courses and now e-learning, that most students find themselves lost in the emerging quagmire that the educational system has become. This adds to the students' fears and uncertainties about themselves and their abilities.
These fears and uncertainties are eloquently expressed in the following ode as if written by a student to share his or her frustrations. See how well you identify with the feelings expressed there and then consider interning with us, hopefully to rise above those fears. Parents are specially invited to read this ode also so to know the inner struggles and trepidations of their children and thereby search for good programs aimed at improving their child’s educational and personal development and guide them into entering such programs.
TO PARENTS, TEACHERS AND EDUCATORS
LISTEN TO THE CHILD BEFORE YOU TEACH
IF I WERE A CHILD AND YOU WERE LISTENING
HERE IS WHAT I WOULD LIKE YOU TO KNOW
AS I WISH AND WONDER IN MY OWN SILENT WAY
What is to become of me
From the day I was born
Perhaps even before
In utter silence
Known only to me
As I wished and wondered
What is to become of me?
And what I am here for?
Would someone tell me the story?
Of where we come from
Or where we are going
And what is my purpose, if any?
In them thar scheme of things?
Am I here to do merriment
like the grasshopper
or live in fear like the squirrel
letting voluptuous summers slip by
so not to fall shor
during the winter cold?
No, no, it just can’t be so
I am here to feel the vicissitudes
of my yearning Soul
urging me to fulfill its goal
I am not a mere fallen leaf
blowing in the wind
I am part of the whole
being needed in earnest
to add to its growth.
But how would I ever know
unless someone connects me
to our yesterdays
so I too KNOW
where we had been
and what lies ahead
in the yet unknown.
As educators, we need to concentrate on understanding that inner longing and thereby work towards resolving that silent suffering of each and every child the world over. That needs to be our one and only mission. And for that we need to start by listening to the child and remembering that all children come equipped with the survival skills which prompts them to learn but not without the knowledge of how our world works and what skills he or she would need to acquire to become part of, and evolve with our, evolving world.
Only we can fill that gap by exposing the child to our evolving world in its totality with no gaps whatsoever. Our guidepost has to be: Just because we know something does not mean that the child knows it also who, in fact, is counting on us to learn from. We can stretch it by breaking the information in bits and pieces or we can shorten the learning time by sifting, sorting, condensing and integrating what we know and then presenting it as an overview to the child, much like a continuous story with no gaps whatsoever but still a “work in progress” so they too can join in and help towards the completion of the humanity’s work!
SUCH A MISSION CAN ONLY BE ACHIEVED BY TEACHING
AND LEARNING BY TOTAL IMMERSION INTO THE WORLD WE
LIVE IN AND NOT VIA FRAGMENTATION OF OUR WORLD AND
THEN TEACHING ABOUT IT IN BITS AND PIECES.
If the above ode and the explanation that followed hits the spot then you know I am on the right track. Hopefully, then you will be prompted to learn with us in an integrated and hands-on fashion where you will learn faster than any school or college. I am, therefore, inviting you to intern with us and send me an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can send you information how to join.
It is to provide that kind of immersion learning that the Center of Integrative Learning and the Science Skills Centers wee established. These centers attempt to integrate knowledge of science, art, humanities, music, economics, business, philosophy, psychology and technology in one place and teach as far as possible, especially the science part, by the hands-on method using all the basic science instruments scientists use to do science.
Here is some additional reading material for you to get acquainted with the pitfalls of our conventional and now overly fragmented educational system which has progressively become more of a business, especially with the introduction of e-learning, than the means of imparting knowledge and skills, see: What really ails our educational system at: http://www.iibbt.com/whatails.htm. Also, because of political reasons, the educational system is being geared more and more towards job preparedness than providing a broader, knowledge based education.
INFORMATION ABOUT OUR CURRENT AND ON-GOING PROJECTS:
NOTE: In our Center you will note a heavy emphasis on Microbiology and Immunology and related lab skills not because I am a Microbiologist but because Microbiology is regarded as the mother science which influenced and helped advance many other sciences such as biochemistry, physiology, histology, molecular biology, immunology, transplantation science, genetic engineering, and biotechnology among others.
Being small organisms, with a generation time of 20 minutes on the average, and with the ability to pick up useful stray genetic elements from the environment, they have also contributed to our understanding of population dynamics, species delineation, antibiosis, probiotics, while maintaining genetic stability yet staying open to change via acquiring and expressing alien genetic material. Microbiology thus presents endless applications and that is why we regard it as the essential knowledge base of all science savvy and educated individuals.
Historical events which affected our educational system: The change in our educational system started way back in the fifties and sixties of the past Century for four reasons; one the Russian satellite Sputnik, two, President Lyndon Johnson’s great society movement, three the introduction of Community Colleges which was a great idea to begin with but got side tracked from its original mission as it progressed and grew, and four, the advent and the popularity of e-learning.
1. The impact of Sputnik: When the Russian satellite went up, it left the United States wondering about the quality of its educational system. As such it provided just the opening for the businesses and even the not for profit organizations to step in to introduce newer curricula and provide and sell lesson plans and science kits to schools taking the task of curriculum design and its implementation away from teachers, administrators and the educators. This outside and business based system is now so well entrenched and accepted into our educational system that even certain Government offices are also making and selling kits to schools and colleges and we have come to rely on this kit based education so much that it practically drains all the funds allocated for education.
Not only that, the system also keeps wanting that more and more money be put into the educational system, all in the name of improving the quality of education. The businesses do not even hesitate to lobby the parents and the legislators for more money which they generally get because after all it is for the betterment of the current and future generations of our citizens! You can read more about this encroachment here, if you have not already done so when this link was given earlier: What ails our educational system? http://www.iibbt.com/whatails.htm.
2. President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society movement: This movement which was designed to bring the minorities into the mainstream of the society added another unknown and untested factor. For expediency and for political reasons his administration emphasized jobs, no matter how menial such jobs were, as opposed to a broad based education which would have been time consuming in the beginning but long lasting and prestigious at the end. Nonetheless in terms of political and PR rhetoric it sounded good, and it still does to say and hear “look how many jobs his or her administration has created or how many students graduated from high school and how many went onto college” without recognizing that those claims are mere statistics and do not amount to much for at the end it is the productivity and versatility of the graduates which counts and that is not measured lest the humpty-dumpty come tumbling down.
As opposed to the now prevailing fragmented system of education mentioned above, integration and immersion method of teaching has one main advantage; it condenses and shrinks knowledge reducing science, for instance, to mere 150 concepts and skills which are easy to learn, retain and use; see the story how serendipitously science got reduced to 150 concepts and skills here: http://www.iibbt.com/storyhowscience.htm.
We also need to assess to what extent handicaps and learning disabilities are real? By relegating such persons to a special class requiring special attention and thus additional funding, we have not only unnecessarily increased our education expenditure but also branded many an innocent and capable persons who have alternate abilities within which they function rather well yet they are being held back because of this special system created for them.
In this context, see the inspirational story of Judy, a hearing and speech compromised individual who, after completing her high school, was being trained to be a janitor which she fought against. See to what heights she reached by interning at the Center and learning via our practical, integrated and immersion form of teaching and learning. You can read her story here: http://www.iibbt.com/Judy.html.
WHAT WE EXPECT FROM OUR INTERNS?
TIME INPUT REQUIRED FROM INTERNS:
Minimum time commitment is 20 hours per week but negotiable.
PREQUIRISTES FOR INTERNS:
No prerequisites. Just willingness to learn and apply diligently.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF WHAT IS EXPECTED FROM OUR INTERNS:
Learn what we are doing and why. Become part pf our immersion form of teaching and learning, yet do your own thing i.e., pursue your assigned or agreed upon project. Also know what others are doing and learn from them and also teach them. That has the way of not only shortening the journey for everyone but also getting exposed to other unknown horizons in the process. Just do not isolate yourself even though you may be an island but the water that surrounds your island will keep encroaching on your terrain. Enjoy and benefit from it. You will be surprised how non-academic activities have much learning in them. I am told that Jaque Monod, the Nobel Laureate, used to come to his lab, open a window and sit and play his trumpet and if no idea precipitated, he wil go home only to repeat the process the next day. Was that a waste of his time or it is this activity which landed him the Nobel prize!
In the same vein, here is a useful mantra, a sort of a litmus test as it will help you take pause before acting or deciding on anything. "WHAT COULD OR WOULD HAPPEN IF..." IF EVERY ONE ASKED THAT QUESTION BEFORE PLANNING BUT FOR SURE BEFORE ACTING OR IMPLEMENTING, THE WORLD WOULD BE A BETTER PLACE AS ALL OF US COLLECTIVELY WILL MAKE LESS MISTAKES AND WILL ALSO KEEP OUR EGOS UNDER CHECK.
HOW TO DO RESEARCH?
Research begins with a question about what you do not know or understand and also with what other people are talking about that particular issue. Research projects are thus not hard to design either on your own or in consultation with your mentor. Having said that, even a simple question like are bathroom tissues really sanitary and/or strong can become a research project specially when those marketed are to meet certain set standards. The question then becomes: do they really meet the set guidelines? Also are the set standards really that reliable? You may be surprised at what you will find when put the tissues to the test!
All interns at the center thus end up having a research project to work on either designed by the interns themselves or assigned to them by their mentor. The resulting research experience thus enables the students to pull all aspects of that problem together, often beginning via a literature search, which augments learning and knowing. The interns also design the research protocol and design the necessary experiments to obtain the needed answers.
In the case of a lab based research project, the intern also prepares all the needed supplies, tests and standardizes the needed instruments and gathers and interprets the data. Eventually the intern writes a report following the protocol required for a paper to be submitted for publication.
In the non- laboratory based research projects the interns undertake a survey, gather the prevailing information and data and determines where correction or improvement may be needed. Then proposes the change and projects the expected improvements if and when the proposals are implemented.
LIST OF OUR CURRENT AND ON GOING PROJECTS
These are the projects that the interns can select from plus they can add their own projects to the list to work on
1. HOW GERMS PODUCE DISEASE, HOW WE PROTECT OURSELVES AND HOW WE CURE OUSELVES WITH OR0 WITHOUT TREATMENT? This project is ideal for those who want to opt for medical and paramedical professions or do extensive biochemical and biomedical research deciphering the mechanisms of disease production.
The project involves determining the role of cellular, intracellular and extracellular products (enzymes and toxins) in microbial pathogenesis dealing with bacteria, fungi, actinomycetes, Chlamydia, rickettsia and viruses. It will also involve understanding the host-parasite relationship including native and artificially induced immunity.
2. IMPROVING SCIENCE EDUCATION VIA HANDS-ON TEACHING, NOT MERE BOOK LEARNING. THIS REQUIRES USING THE SCIENCE INSTRUMENTS SCIENTISTS USE TO DO SCIENCE. THIS APPROACH TAKES THE FEAR OUT OF LEARNING SCIENCE THEREBY ENCOURAGING MORE STUDENTS TO OPT FOR SCIENCE BASED JOBS AND CAREERS: We do this by making Science sensible and thereby learn-able by designing and implementing hands-on concepts and skills based science using all the basic science instruments scientists use to do science. This integrated curriculum which consisted of only 150 concepts and skills when arrived at around 1967 via a survey conducted with input from a variety of academic, industrial, sanitary, clinical and governmental employers, see details here: http://www.iibbt.com/storyhowscience.htm. Since then it has slowly expanded to contain 250 items and this is curriculum our interns will be using and learning from.
As an intern at the Center getting to know this integrated view of science is likely to spark new interest in science leading to science based jobs and careers. It will be especially useful for those interested in teaching as it is likely to make them better all around teachers, specially science teachers, which are now in short supply.
3. RESTORING, REFURBISHING AND MAINTAINING LAB INSTRUMENTS SUCH AS MICROSCOPES, pH METERS, SPECTROPHOTOMETERS, CODUCTIVITY METERS, ELECTRPHORESIS AND CHROMATOGRAPHY EQUIPMENT AND MORE…
This is a vanishing art as much of this maintenance work is now done by companies selling the instruments who set up a contractual arrangement with the users such as the schools, universities nd colleges and provide them the needed repair and maintenance services on a scheduled basis. This is fine but its sad part is that neither the teachers nor the students get to know how to fix, repair or maintain the equipment they are using and if the instrument is not working as it should, they do not know the difference. Yet they keep on using the instrument even though the results they are getting are erroneous.
This skill should actually be taught to both the teachers and the students and we at the Science Skills Center provide that opportunity to our interns. Actually we are also inviting our interns to become part of a larger project that we are undertaking wherein we will restore and refurbish used and discarded instruments and make them available to inner city schools which hardly have any science instruments to speak of. This way we will be bringing real hands-on science teaching to under served schools.
4. TRAINING WAR VETERANS FOR JOBS AND CAREERS:
There are three approaches to this; one, is the project called Troops to Teachers that the Governor’s office is promoting. The intern involved with this project will gather information about this project and then design a protocol how to make this transition happen and also apply for funding.
The second is to train war veterans in the art and science of restoring and refurbishing science instruments (see number 3 above) and then making the refurbished instruments available to schools specially to schools located in the poor neighborhoods where science labs hardly have any equipment to speak of. The war veteran so trained will also serve as liaisons guiding the respective science teachers in using the instruments to teach the relevant science concepts and skills. Such trained war veteran would also be able to get a job in the school system as science lab assistants assisting the science teacher in implementing the hands-on approach to science teaching.
And the third is to give the veterans a head start to seek entry into medical and paramedical professions, or jobs in the numerous science based industries such as foods, pharmaceutical and cosmetic including agriculture and environmental issues.
5. DESIGNING CURRICULUM BY INTEGRATING ALL KNOWLEDGE INSTEAD OF FRAGMENTING AND COMPARTMENTALIZING IT:
need to do this is so acute that it is for this reason students take notes and highlight sentences and paragraphs in books! Yet educators do not see the need to provide that kind of integration.
Integration is also important because we humans are hard wired to learn whole stories better that make sense. We learn even faster, with more retention and understanding, if the stories are first presented to us in an overview form which we can then decipher and after mulling them over in our minds, can make them part of our own evolving knowledge base. All students long to get this kind of knowledge. I know I did when I was growing up but fortunately knowledge in that format was available then but has progressively become extinct now as courses have been eliminated or watered down and/or lab portion of many courses eliminated.
This is a far cry from what used to be the norm during the sixties and the seventies of the past century when lab courses consisted of lab books comprising of upwards of 350 pages where students did all exercises on their own thus learning first hand and acquiring skills and procedures including learning their limitations in the process; very important for those professionals such as the physicians and other health care workers including the research scientists who would be needing to make on the spot decisions to deliver their services or perform their tasks.
The prevailing tendency of cutting down or watering down courses thus has to be corrected and for that very reason I have established the Center for Integrative Learning and the Science Skills Center, see http://www.centerforintegrativelearning.org; http://www.scienceskillscenter.org.
It turns out, even to my own surprise, that as we integrate knowledge removing minutia, duplications and redundancies from it, it shrinks. This happens not only to science, as mentioned earlier, but also to our knowledge of art, music, philosophy, sociology, economics and psychology etc. They also shrink and when we combine their essence with that of science, we end up with a holistic collage of practically the whole of our functional knowledge knowing which makes us versatile, analytical and thereby much more useful to ourselves and to our society.
Looking at this in a broader, global sense what I see is a possible hope for the disillusioned masses around the world who may or may not be suffering from hunger, which they do, but their greatest hunger is for knowledge which is not being made available to them in a digestible (integrative) form. Yet they go to schools hoping that schools will provide it but in the end all they see is disappointment and frustration which they try to blame on those outside influences which promised but failed to deliver on their promises. All trust is thus lost and no peace can come out of this sort of psychological climate wherein all they do is point fingers and all we do is defend and justify ourselves. Won't it be better if we shared the knowledge in the first place? The integrated way of teaching and learning can do that in a hurry thereby bringing individuals and nations together; the first step towards negotiating global peace.
This could be an ideal project for those studying political science, community development educational counseling and international relations.
6. TECHNOTHERAPY™. A NEW FORM OF THERAPY EMERGING AS AN OFF SHOOT OF INTEGATIVE TEACHING AND LEARNING: SEE: http://www.centerforintegrativelearning.org/gpage3.html
This is an ideal project for psychology majors, clinical therapists and social workers.
We are thought controlled entities and what we think, observe, interpret and thereby respond to, affects our physiology and thereby our sense of well being.
Knowledgeable people don't find themselves lost in the muddled up world of ours. They can reason things out and thus feel quite self assured, free of anxiety and stress, two of the pressures which eventually, in many cases, lead to depression and other effective disorders.
A system of psychotherapy called, Technotherapy™ has emerged out of our way of integrative teaching. It is my belief that if conventional psychotherapy is combined with Technotherapy™, the treatment can be sufficiently shortened and the eventual outcome could also make a person employable or give sufficient incentive and confidence to start on a career path. See www.centerforintegrativelearning.org/gpag3.html
This could be an ideal project to pursue for psychology majors, clinical psychologists and social workers.
7. PROVIDING PRACTICAL AND FUNCTIONAL KNOWLEDGE AT THE GRASSROOT LEVEL WITH THE AIM OF IMPROVING HEALTH AND HYGIENE INCLUDING MOTIVATING PEOPLE TOWARDS SCIENCE EDUCATION BY SIMPLIFYING SCIENCE EDUCATION. THIS PROJECT IS APPLICABLE TO ALL PEOPLE THROUGHOUT THE WORLD AS IT IS DESIGNED TO ERRADICATE INFECIOUS AND CONTAGIOUS DISEASES.
This could be an ideal project for public health workers at the local and the global level.
For this project my slogan is: Plant microscopes, not cluster bombs! Isn’t that how our society had its start, through Leeuwenhoek’s microscope! Why should the people in the developing countries be any different?
Read the story what just one peak at some polluted water under a microscope can do.
A nine year old after seeing this demonstration in an Iranian village pensively remarked “so that is why my mother is always sick.” Need I say more! See the whole story here: www.iibbt.com/Sepah-eDanish.html.
We do not need millions of dollars to bring a global change in terms of health and hygiene. All we need is one microscope per village!
8. ASSESSING THE MANNER OF SCIENCE TEACHING IN SCHOOLS, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES AND THEN DESIGNING MEANS TO REVIVE AND PROMOTE HANDS-ON SCIENCE TEACHING IN SCHOOLS, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITEIS:
This could be an ideal project for Ed majors involved with curriculum design and implementation. Also for bio-med engineering students learning to restore, maintain, standardize and refurbish science instruments.
There are four aspects of this problem in the current educational climate which are preventing this from happening.
One, since the sixties and more so now, many four year universities and colleges have been phasing out their hands-on science laboratories relegating this type of teaching to the Community Colleges.
The understanding for this arrangement was that what the students would learn at the Community Colleges will dovetail into what the students will be learning at the four year colleges.
This requires an ongoing liaison between the Community Colleges and the four year colleges particularly regarding the contents of the curriculum at both institutions. This has not happened and the Community Colleges in fact have become their own self governing entities designing and implementing their own curriculum mostly aimed towards job preparation yet the credits they award are transferrable to the four year colleges even though the course contents of such courses may have no relevance to what would be needed to continue learning at the four year colleges.
Two, the lab supplies which once were freely available have progressively become less and less available, as many vendors have closed shop, which makes teaching a hands-on science course difficult. Also what lab supplies are now available are designed for clinical or research labs and therefore are very expensive which with budgetary constraints makes instructors and administrators to cut down lab sessions thus fragmenting learning and loosing continuity of what the students need to know and learn.
Three, most Community College and even four year college instructors are coming from a research background many of whom have not studied the subject they are assigned to teach. Many thus teach about their research area and not the core contents of the subject which fails to prepare students for a broader understanding of the subject and its application to jobs, professions and life.
Four. Another stumbling block in hands-on teaching is the lack of basic lab equipment in the classroom. This is an acute problem especially for schools located in the poor neighborhoods which you can regard as “instrument deserts”. Our solution to this problem is to restore and refurbish used and discarded lab instruments and make them available to schools; see our video regarding this project here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07LorXLAkCM.
This is an interesting project for interns to get involved with as they will learn a whole lot about refurbishing, restoring, maintaining and using basic lab instruments which know-how they can then apply to starting their own instrument repair business. This project will also involve conducting a survey to determine the degree to which various schools are equipped with the needed basic science instruments and if the teachers are equipped to use the available instruments.
This project also has environmental impact as discarded instruments will be kept out of the hands of the scavengers who are stripping them for metals and/or part and the skeletons of the instruments ending up in land fills adding to our environmental problems.
This project will also require tracking the journey and the ultimate fate of the instruments from the time of their purchase and when they are ultimately declared surplus.
Our approach to resolve this dilemma is two fold:
One, we have developed a mini catalog of the essential lab supplies needed for teaching a comprehensive lab course in Microbiology and Immunology. This catalog not only provides the essential supplies but also provides them at much less of a cost than available from the market.
These supplies are also designated as "generic supplies" not intended for clinical or research use. With this catalog, budgetary constraints would not prevent the instructors from teaching comprehensive hands-on lab courses.
Two, by making an ongoing consultation available to teachers and instructors in selecting designing and implementing lesson plans instead of purchasing lesson plans from the vendors, this project will not only save hard to come by funds but also will ensure that the lesson plans are applicable to their particular class room and student needs.
By providing such consultation opportunities we are also indirectly training the teachers and the instructors augmenting their professional abilities as hands-on lab based science teachers.
9. DESIGN CURRICULUM FOR CONTINUOUS TRAINING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOMENT OF INSTRUCTORS AND TEACHERS USING INTEGATIVE AND HANDS-ON TEACHING APPROACHS:
In addition to providing professional development via consultation as mentioned above, we also provide hands-on workshops and courses to instructors and teachers specially designed for them to function in a lab based class room setting.
Currently professional development is being done via universities and colleges under the assumption that since colleges and universities are the centers of learning, they will be able to provide more thorough and custom made training. This is not happening because the universities and colleges attract teachers by offering them graduate credits for the training. This the participants like because then they can apply those credits towards their graduate education earning a Master’s or a PhD degree which makes them eligible for a higher salary bracket.
Teachers thus prefer to get their professional training via universities and colleges even though their training may or may not be relevant to the professional development they need. The universities and colleges also subsidize their tuition fee via grants from the National Science Foundation or other government and non governmental agencies making the training opportunity more attractive for the teachers even though the training does not serve the purpose at hand.
10. GREEN MICROBIOLOGY - DEVELOPING A HANDS-ON COURSE CALLED GREEN MICROBIOLOGY BASICALLY TO REMOVE FEAR ABOUT WORKING WITH GERMS. THIS COURSE IS TO BE BASED ON USING NON-DISEASE PRODUCING ORGANISMS SUCH AS THOSE USED IN DAIRY OR FERMENTATION INDUSTIES INCLUDING WASTE DISPOSAL FACILITIES:
This could be an ideal project for Ed majors, teachers and administrators involved with curriculum design.
If there were one aspect of Microbiology which prevented it from becoming mainstream, it is the fear in those who would be working with the germs. Yet by only working with the germs (microbes) that one acquires the basic knowledge of this subject and how to apply its knowledge for the betterment of human, animal and plant life including the quality of our environment.
In order to overcome this fear, we are developing a course called GREEN MICROBIOLOGY where only non disease producing organisms, such as those used in fermentation and dairy industries e.g., species of Lactobacilli, Acetobacter and similar other organisms will be used to impart all of the functional know-how of Microbiology.
Interns are encouraged to participate in the development of this course as it is likely to broaden their horizons about microbiology, biology, other science subjects such as chemistry and biochemistry and histology etc.
11. GLOBAL OUTREACH - OUR TANZANIA PROJECT, PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF AIDS AND MALARIA VIA HANDS-ON SCIENCE EDUCATION FOCUSSING ON HEALTH AND HYYGIENE.
This could be an ideal project for public health workers, business administration, marketing and International studies majors.
Most people believe that only governments and heavily funded not for profit agencies have the means to eradicate these diseases yet there is a grass root effort pioneered by a young man who, with his friends made 700,000 bricks and then used those bricks to build a small school house where he is trying to teach science, health and hygiene to 150 fifteen and eighteen year olds but he has hardly any science equipment which we have promised to provide him and have just sent him two boxes weighing 110 pounds carrying the essential lab instruments enabling him to teach hands-on science. In order to get his project on a good start and on sound footing, we will also be sending him lesson plans either via videos or Skype. Our interns will be able to participate in the design and delivery of these lesson plans.
This project involves how to set up a functional hands-on science teaching lab in a developing country with limited resources and funds and how to guide the local teachers, remotely perhaps, via Skype or videos aiding their professional development.
This project also involves raising funds for the implementation of this project, especially for the transportation of the instruments and would thus require some marketing.
12. DROP OUT PREVENTION BY GETTING AWAY FROM CONVENTIONAL SCHOOL BASED AND SUBJECT BASED LEARNING. INSTEAD POVIDING IMMERSION FORM OF LEARNING AS HEAD START FOR JOBS AND CAREERS IN MEDICAL AND PARA-MEDICAL PROFESSIONS, FOODS, PHARMACEUTIAL, COSMETIC AND FERMENTATION INDUSTRIES INCLUDING AGRICULTURE AND ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES. could be an ideal project for social workers and community outreach professionals.
Most students drop out because they find the fragmented system of teaching boring and unappealing. Yet they are intelligent people who make this difficult decision knowingly except given the right exposure via integrative and hands-on learning they get sufficiently motivated to continue their education.
Within the prevailing conventional mode of thinking, the above description and the accompanying claim may sound rather far fetched to many yet our experience proves otherwise.
This happened during the early days of Neighborhood Youth Corps (NYC) when we conducted a hands-on science program for juniors and seniors from the Chicago Public Schools. The project involved teaching them in a hands-on fashion in a lab setting about science via microbiology for half a day every day and sending them to work in a university lab for the rest of the day.
But before putting them in the classes, we asked the Labor Department to test them as to their reading, writing and math abilities. They tested on the average at a second and third grade level yet they performed so well in the lab based training that within two to three weeks they were talking about E.coli and other organisms and how to stain and identify them. This same group of students when placed in the clinical and research labs of the University of Illinois in Chicago also performed very well absorbing what they observed and understood there.
At the end of the ten week program this same group was taken on a field trip to the Abbott Labs where they were able to understand what the various workers and researchers were doing.
What a transformation for students with only second and third grade reading and writing abilities! Reviving and providing this type of educational experience can thus salvage many a drop out students who have given up trying or were considering to dropout.
13. FROM TROOPS TO TEACHERS - REHABILITATING THE RETURNING WAR VETERANS:
This project would require understanding what it takes to become a teacher and how to bring the war veterans to fulfill those requirements. Additionally how to make them not just teachers in the conventional terms but good teachers. Here equipping the teachers with hands-on science teaching by using all the basic science instruments and thinking in an integrative manner would put them in a category above the conventional teachers thus making them more employable.
Also, even if they lacked all or some of the requirements to become certified teachers, they can enter the school system as lab assistants helping the science teacher to teach hands-on science as opposed to he conventional book science or the kit based science which is now the norm.
In any case, science teaching can be immensely improved bringing and retaining more students into science based jobs and careers.
14. GRANT WRITING, SEEKING FUNDING FOR RESEARCH OR CORRECTIVE SOCIAL ISSUES. This is a field by itself and a vital one at that with numerous requirements, registration and guidelines which could vary from donor to donor, some even requiring that the applicant must have an annual budget of at least one million dollars before they would even consider their application.
Right from the start you can thus see that grants are not for the grassroots or just starting from scratch efforts. Within these requirements you can also realize why new ideas which need the most nurturing rarely if ever get to the donors and philanthropists.
This project would require persistence and planning and a whole lot of foot work and psychology but it will be an ideal experience for those aiming to enter the not for profit field or interested in promoting new ideas or opening new avenues in new and ongoing research.
15. ECOLOGY OF EDUCATION:
This multifaceted project could be ideal for anyone but specially for social workers and those involved with education counseling, specially guiding youth with their education issues.
The current state of education is such that it needs to be studied in depth to fully understand how ineffective it has become, adversely polluted or taken off course. This is vital to understand because the outcome of this project would have far reaching affects on our overall educational format of teaching and learning and it will require a team effort to do it justice. I am, therefore, looking for a team of students to work on this project; see description below:
THE ECOLOGY OF EDUCATION; A DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT:
While I am a Microbiologist by training, my interests also extend into social issues especially education because education affects all aspects of our society and life. Therefore, the more we know how our educational system is set up and how well it is functioning, the more we can relate it to the quality of life and the quality of society it is producing.
I have purposely picked the title of this project as the ECOLOGY OF EDUCATION because all systems whether natural or man made function best when there is an ecological balance in them such that the various segments of the system are so well dovetailed that they function as a whole in unison or in tandem ensuring the over all functionality and survival of the system. Sure, the system goes through evolutionary changes but it still retains its overall functionally and purpose, often but not always, improving in the process.
In this context when we examine any ecological system, we prefer to examine it as a whole but often, of necessity, we have to take it apart and study its individual parts but without loosing the location and function of those parts in the overall scheme of things.
Education, in such an ecological context, has never been studied mainly because it has been pushed and pulled apart from so many sides and by so many factors and forces that to know its totality and thereby its functionality has been a difficult if not an impossible task.
The main part of this study thus will be focused on understanding and deciphering the existing infrastructure of our educational system. That infrastructure of necessity is not a linear system but a multifaceted much intertwined system which in many ways is analogous to a biological eco system; healthy when in balance and sick when polluted and therefore out of balance.
So far, therefore, we have been contended by looking at the isolated parts of education and hoping that by assigning these parts certain functions and then examining and testing the efficacy of those parts will show us what education is all about and how well it is functioning and delivering on its goals.
Despite numerous such fragmented studies we are still in the dark about the inner and often the hidden and not so obvious aspects of education’s workings. Consequently, education is increasingly becoming an enigma affecting all aspects of life locally and globally with no relief in sight.
The purpose of this proposed study would thus be to first put all the isolated parts of the educational system together and then see how each part functions and affects the overall performance of the system. This will have to begin with a historical perspective of the educational system and how it has come to be where it is now.
This will require studying all the forces and factors, may they be financial, political, pedagogical or those belonging to the infrastructure of the educational system itself such as funding, thereby income, and finally the categories of expenditure so to achieve a complete accountability of the system.
Such a study will thus give an ecological perspective of the overall educational structure and will hopefully show areas where the system has become out of balance thus affecting the overall health of the system.
Corrections can then be logically proposed to bring the system to an even keel. This will be a welcome departure from the hit and miss manner of the various midway corrections now being proposed and implemented most of which are analogous to robbing Peter to Pay Paul or side swiping the main issue but explaining or justifying the prevailing practice in question in anyway possible thus retaining the status quo. It is to get out of or retaining this perpetual status quo that this study is important.
Additionally with accountability, this study can show how best to budget and prioritize what must take precedence over the superfluous including the fashionable and the impressive rhetoric which often ends up disguising the real state of health of our educational system. But the rhetoric has its political value as it enables us to make promises to appease the people. Consequently, only an in depth ecological study of the educational system where all of its components and their affects are accounted for can show the hidden anomalies enabling us to eventually do some serious course correction.
Research for instance became the rage after the discovery of antibiotics and then after the discovery of DNA structure. This is where the industry and the academia began to have conflict of interest which President Ronald Reagan resolved by declaring that all research done with the public funds would be regarded to be in the public domain and thus freely available to everyone including the industries and the businesses.
Subsequent to this, amicable and legal arrangements had to be made to safeguard the patent rights of the faculty involved with any and all discoveries. There was thus much give and take at this juncture and now the system has become quite stable wherein industry can fund university research with mutual benefits except that such benefits lean more towards the industry because they get to have the expertise of the faculty at much less of a cost than if they hired such manpower on their own. Plus industry also ends up getting all the specialized facilities of the universities such as class four isolation facilities for genetic engineering and infectious disease work which are expensive to set up and maintain.
With all of the above, and more in mind, some of the areas needing in-depth analysis would thus be:
(a) Teaching verses research and time and resources allocated to each.
(b) Source of funding i.e., governmental, business, grants, donations and endowments and their allocation to teaching verses research.
(c) Staffing for teaching such as faculty, adjunct faculty and /or graduate students.
(d) Staffing for research such as faculty, graduate and undergraduate students. Lately undergraduate students, even freshmen students, are encouraged to join existing research teams which practice takes away time from reading and doing independent learning but the students and their parents regard this “research” as a prestigious activity and thus encouraged at the expense of serious learning.
(e) How marriage between the academia and the industry is affecting research and teaching.
(f) How courses are being diluted down to make more room for research.
(g) How undergraduate courses taken at the Community Colleges are found sufficient to meet course requirements at the graduate level.
Implementation of the proposed ecology of education study:
As can be seen from the above description, this project is not a one person project but needs a team effort and I am open to that and would welcome up to six or eight students to focus on this study as a team. They do not have to meet in person at all times as I encourage them to share their findings with each other and with me via e-mails and other technology avenues. At the end though I expect a report depicting a consolidation of their findings with suggestions if any. I am hoping this study to become a White Paper on education with due credit given to all participants.
FURTHER INFORMATION ABOUT OUR CURRENT AND ON-GOING PROJECTS:
NOTE: In our Center you will note a heavy emphasis on Microbiology and Immunology and related lab skills not because I am a Microbiologist but because Microbiology is regarded as the mother science which influenced and helped advance many other sciences such as physiology, histology, molecular biology, genetic engineering, and biotechnology among others.
Being small organisms, with a generation time of 20 minutes on the average, and with the ability to pick up useful stray genetic elements from the environment, they have also contributed to our understanding of population dynamics, species delineation, antibiosis, probiosis, while maintaining genetic stability yet staying open to change via acquiring and expressing alien genetic material. Microbiology thus presents endless applications and that is why we regard it as the essential mother science and belongs in the knowledge base of all science savvy and educated individuals.