The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations award $100K grant for innovative Jackson Laboratory science teacher enrichment program

Date: November 9, 2011
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Bar Harbor, Maine – The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations have awarded a $100,000 grant to fund The Jackson Laboratory’s innovative Teacher Sabbatical Internship Program.

The program provides mathematics and science teachers in Maine public secondary schools hands-on research experience during a semester at The Jackson Laboratory. The new grant will help to support the next four years of teacher internships.

In making the award, Arthur Vining Davis Foundations President Jonathan T. Howe wished The Jackson Laboratory “great success in your efforts to strengthen science and math education in public high schools throughout Maine.”

Randy Smith, Ph.D., director of Jackson’s educational programs, said, “We believe this gift is the best possible way to support effective, innovative science teaching and to make a huge difference in the education and future careers of Maine students.”

The Laboratory launched teacher sabbatical internships in 2006 with generous funding from The Foundations and Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The semester-long program provides secondary school teachers with a unique opportunity to conduct real-world scientific research in the labs of Jackson scientist-mentors.

The teacher-interns also take a three-credit course taught by University of Maine faculty on the Jackson campus that explores the pedagogical strategies that help students learn to think independently. As part of the curriculum, teachers read background literature, write a research proposal, conduct research and summarize their findings orally and in a written research paper.

“To date,” says Smith, “this program has trained eight Maine teachers who are now implementing their experiences in the classroom to the great benefit of their students and their schools.”

Brad LaRoche, whose 2009 internship focused on dysferlin and cardiomyopathy, is a science teacher at Camden-Rockport Middle School. “I would say that without a doubt my Jackson Lab experience has had the most profound impact on my professional life as a science teacher,” said LaRoche. “I can speak the language of science since I was able to experience it firsthand so well. My students are encouraged to ask questions they have no answers to and know that in the asking of the questions is where true science starts.”

Smith notes that the need to improve secondary-school science teaching and to motivate students––especially those from socially and economically disadvantaged communities––to study science in college has been well documented nationally and in Maine. “Students in Maine test at or above the national average in mathematics and science, but the percentage of students going on to college is lower than both the national and the New England averages,” he explains.

“Regrettably, Maine ranks last in producing science and engineering graduate students ––a circumstance that ultimately has negative economic consequences on the state and its citizens.”

Moreover, first-year or uncertified teachers teach 21 percent of math and 25 percent of science students statewide. In small rural school systems, the percentage of these inexperienced or out-of-discipline teachers is even higher.

“By facilitating the Sabbatical Teacher Internship Program for science and mathematics teachers in Maine,” Smith says, “The Jackson Laboratory is having a positive impact on how science is understood and applied in the state’s secondary school classrooms.”

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, based in Jacksonville, Fla., are a national philanthropic organization established through the generosity of the late American industrialist Arthur Vining Davis. The Foundations’ primary programs are private higher education, theological education, secondary education, health care and public television.

The Jackson Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit biomedical research institution and National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center based in Bar Harbor, Maine, with a facility in Sacramento, Calif., a planned facility in Farmington, Conn., and a total staff of about 1,400. Its mission is to discover the genetic basis for preventing, treating and curing human disease, and to enable research and education for the global biomedical community.


Joyce Peterson, 207-288-6058, The Jackson Laboratory

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