Today I attended an inspiring event at which the State Department welcomed 25 science teachers visiting the United States from 25 countries around the world. The event marked the launch of an International Visitor Leadership Program entitled “A New Beginning: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education,” which will run from September 27 through October 15. The program aims to support a number of Administration priorities, particularly the renewed global science engagement called for by the President in his historic speech in Cairo last year and U.S. efforts to strengthen science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.
The visiting teachers will visit primary- and secondary-level schools in seven cities across the United States, where they will engage in a professional, cultural, and educational examination of the building blocks of STEM education. During their visits to schools, participants will explore how to nurture and support hands-on science education, how to demonstrate the relevance of science for children, and how to create a setting in which children actively engage in scientific learning.
Through a joint effort with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, program participants and local American students will also experience the connection between art and science. During the opening week of the program, American artist Kenji Williams will perform “Bella Gaia,” a multi-media, musical presentation that combines images of planet earth and space travel.
By building new international relationships with rising leaders in the field of science and technology education, the State Department program promises to complement other New Beginnings efforts to reinvigorate international scientific collaboration and exchange. And it won’t end in October. After the teachers return home, their students and those of their American counterparts will be invited to take part in global “virtual” science fairs.
The program begins in Washington, D.C., and will also be hosted in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Seattle, and Los Angeles.
I’ve participated in many International Visitor Leadership Programs (IVLP) over the years, and am always greatly impressed with the people and subject matter. The programs are coordinated by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and annually brings more than 4,500 potential or established leaders to the United States from around the world for professional projects with U.S. peers and for firsthand experience of American society and culture. Over 320 current and former chiefs of state and heads of government and many other distinguished world leaders in the public and private sectors have participated in the program, which this year celebrates its 70th anniversary.
These programs add tremendous value across the board. In this example, the delegation will bring the perspective of nearly 25 countries to U.S. scientists and educators and foster new connections that will ultimately help all nations meet their STEM education goals.
Jason Rao is a Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science And Technology Policy