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Teachers come to MIT as students

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--School kids newly sprung from classrooms around the country might be amused to learn that a few of their teachers lost no time in grabbing their vacated seats.

Delaying their summer vacations, a select group of middle and high school science and math teachers became students themselves -- spending an intensive week at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass., taking in knowledge in the best MIT fashion: "like drinking water from a fire hose."

Fifty-one teachers from 17 US states, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were immersed in an educational program featuring lectures by 26 MIT professors who explained and often demonstrated some of the latest cutting-edge research. The daily dose of eight hours of presentations ran the gamut from basic math, physics and biology to advanced applications such as aircraft engines and genetic engineering.

The goal of the June 21-27 course was to emphasize the connection between the basic science taught in public schools and the way engineers apply that science to advanced technology.

MIT professor Ronald M. Latanision founded the Science and Engineering Program for Middle and High School Teachers 10 years ago to provide educators with a different perspective on the subjects they teach.

"We're all part of the same educational continuum," said Professor Latanision, a materials science engineer who is director of the program. "High school students today are our students tomorrow and, ultimately, they represent the future of the educated population."

Once they complete the week-long MIT program, participants are granted membership in the New England Science Teachers (NEST) organization, the goal of which is to enhance scientific, mathematical and technological literacy. NEST offers follow-up workshops for its members, as well as participation in Scientists-On-Line, providing NEST teachers and their students electronic access to MIT faculty via the Internet.

Beverly Lee, a physics teacher from Leagus City, Texas and a 1996 participant, said of the program: "The smorgasbord of topics presented in one week at MIT has provided me with a nutshell perspective of current research in science and technology and its potential impact on society���������������������������Thanks for the brain food."

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