What if Science was Fun? Noyce Foundation Sends Science Educators Back to School

Chris Siefert has long been the force behind community development projects in Pittsburgh. From his post at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, he has commissioned sculptures for local parks and started a campaign to brighten up his city's north side. Now, with the support of the Noyce Foundation, he's jumping on a new initiative that will help him add a hands-on science education program to the arts- and culture-focused offerings at his workplace. (See Noyce Foundation: Grants for Science Education).

Siefert is among 17 people from around the world who are beginning a year-long stint as Noyce Leadership Fellows (read Noyce executive director Ron Ottinger's IP profile). The fellowship program, now in its sixth year, was established under the theory that students could be inspired to pursue a career in math and science if they have a positive experience at a place like a museum or a science center. By making science fun, these institutions can demystify topics that usually seem overly technical.

As part of the fellowship, Siefert will gain entry to Noyce's one-year crash course in leadership. The fellows attend three retreats, where they can network not only with each other but also a wide range of experts in fundraising, governance, leadership, and other topics. They are also matched with smaller groups that meet by phone every month to share progress on the "strategic initiative" that each must pursue.

In Siefert's case, the initiative is a new space in his museum that is targeted at an older audience than the half-pints that can regularly be found wielding paintbrushes or playing in the replica of Mister Rogers' neighborhood. While much of the work is yet to be done, the goal is to create an environment where kids can work with people from local academic institutions, the city, and nonprofits to experiment with science.

"It will be a new museum in the city of Pittsburgh, a new learning center. It will be quite exciting," Siefert says.

Siefert gained admission to Noyce's exclusive club of fellows with his background as a mover and shaker and his solid plan for a new program in line with the foundation's goal of improving math and science education. As all applicants do, he also secured the support of sponsors who were willing to vouch for him.

But the Noyce Foundation dishes out cash in other ways, too. With nearly $130 million in assets, it provides dozens of grants each year to causes like improving afterschool science and math programs and developing science common core standards.

Information on applying to be part of next year's round of Noyce Leadership Fellows will be released in July 2013.