National Lab Day: White House, science societies begin campaign for science education

This post was contributed by ESA’s Director of Education and Diversity Programs, Teresa Mourad.

A new nationwide campaign was launched yesterday at the White House, designed to motivate and inspire America’s youth to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Speaking about the “Educate to Innovate” campaign, President Obama reaffirmed the importance of science and mathematics education to drive America’s role as the world’s engine of scientific discovery and innovation. The President sees STEM education as vital in the development of a citizenry with the ability to solve problems, think critically and make informed decisions throughout their lives.

A series of high-powered partnerships have come together to invest $260 million in the project. Among these is a coalition of science and engineering societies supporting National Lab Day, a grassroots effort to bring hands-on learning to 10 million students by upgrading science labs, supporting project-based learning and building communities of support for grades 6-12 STEM teachers. The coalition of more than 200 public and private sector organizations, including ESA, represents more than 2.5 million STEM professionals and almost 4 million educators, with strong financial support from the Hidary Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and industry partners, including Microsoft, AT&T and Texas Instruments.

National Lab Day will facilitate inquiry-based hands-on STEM experiences in classrooms, learning labs and after-school programs throughout the year and culminate in special events each May.  “We wouldn’t teach football from a textbook,” said John Holdren, Science Adviser to President Obama. “It is even more important that America’s youth have the opportunity to learn math and science by doing.”

What’s refreshing about National Lab Day is its grassroots approach, reflecting the community-building ethos in a digital age. It is a timely recognition that no one group can move students to the top in math and science achievement alone. The initiative will help to engage the scientific and educational community in this challenge.  National Lab Day will match teachers with scientists and technology professionals in a sort of “eHarmony” system, based on educational needs and rooted in local communities.

With the pressing need for a world class STEM workforce, National Lab Day is the scientific community’s response to President Obama’s challenge issued at the National Academy of Sciences this spring to raise STEM education as a national priority. This initiative promises to help move the U.S. from a position of being 21st in the world in science achievement to being 1st.  As President Obama says, it will “expand opportunity for all Americans, including women and minorities” and “unlock a sense of promise”. To join in this important national campaign, please visit

Other “Educate to Innovate” initiatives include the Connect a Million Minds campaign, spearheaded by Time Warner, and the Be the Future campaign, led by Discovery Communications.

Read the full White House press release here.