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Thai Educators to Visit UW-Madison

A delegation of ten education officials from Thailand will visit Wisconsin from May 23 to June 3, with the goal of laying the groundwork for a long-term partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to improve science education in Thailand. The trip will include visits to schools in Madison, Fond du Lac and northern Wisconsin, so that officials can observe American science classes and meet with teachers.

“The objective of this visit is to create a roadmap for the next five to ten years,” explains Kevin Niemi, an outreach program manager with the UW’s Center for Biology Education. “With an action plan in place, we can work to secure funding from the Thai government for workshops, exchanges and other professional development activities.”

The Center for Biology Education is partnering with the UW’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences and the School of Education to involve university faculty and staff in K-12 science education outreach. While much of the center’s work focuses on American teachers and students, the Thai project emerged from the Chancellor’s Asian Partnership Initiative.

“We’re exploring how to support Thai efforts to introduce a more inquiry-based approach using the scientific process as a teaching tool,” explains Niemi, who held teacher workshops during two month-long trips to Thailand. “Improving science education is crucial as Thailand transitions to a technology-driven economy. There’s a need to improve general science literacy.”

The University has memoranda of understanding for educational and scientific exchange with two Thai universities, which have led to workshops and opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to visit between the two countries. However, Niemi says that the goal of the upcoming trip is to broaden the impact of the existing agreements.

“We want to expose the delegation–which consists of deputy secretaries of the Ministry of Education, principals, and heads of science departments–to U.S.-style teacher professional development. To that end, we will engage them as learners in professional development workshops on inquiry-based science units, have faculty from the School of Education present ongoing research projects in professional development for teachers, and also visit several schools across the state to observe classrooms and talk with teachers and school leaders.”

Niemi says that the group is tentatively scheduled to visit Mendota Elementary School in Madison and meet with staff for the Earth partnership program for teachers at the UW Arboretum on May 27; Conserve School, a private high school in Land O’ Lakes, on May 29 and 30; and schools in Fond du Lac on June 1. There will also be other visits to Madison-area schools.

“This is all part of the UW and CALS strategy to insure that our faculty and staff can collaborate with the best minds anywhere in the world and that our students develop into global citizens and professionals,” says Ken Shapiro, CALS Associate Dean for International Agriculture Programs.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Contact Niemi to arrange photo opportunities for classroom visits