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NEST was born from the energies of the remarkable group of teachers who attended MIT's first Science and Engineering Program for High School Teachers in 1989. This group met well into the evening after each full day of topical presentations in order to discuss problems inherent in the teaching of science and other, broader educational policy and societal issues. NEST now has more than 700 members and is still growing.
- its members enjoy a continuing, long-term relationship with MIT, reconvening with MIT representatives for weekend conferences each fall and summer
- it allows teachers to maintain contacts with fellow educators and to build upon the MIT experience
- it provides educators with additional opportunities such as paid summer research opportunities through the Center for Materials Science and Engineering
- and job postings through the NEST Discussion List.
NEST members have the opportunity to spend a year on MIT's campus as Visiting Scholars while on sabbatical leave from their schools. During this time, they work with MIT colleagues to create instructional K-12 initiatives and further their own professional development. Teacher Fellows have in the past linked with MIT's Undergraduate Teacher Education Program and with other K-12 outreach programs, lending their expertise, experience, and perspective to those on MIT's campus who are interested in K-12 education, particularly in science and mathematics.
To encourage and reward student interest in science and mathematics, NEST has created awards for "science activism" that are presented in a publicly visible forum. The awards are based not solely on a student's scholastic achievements, but on the student's outreach into the school and community. Such outstanding students in each NEST member's school receive a plaque (which remains in the school), a certificate, and a signed copy of a book written by an MIT author.
NEST similarly created awards for outstanding science and/or mathematics teachers. A maximum of 3 teacher awards may be issued annually. The Awardees receive an honorarium and a certificate at the fall meeting. Again, such awards are presented publicly with a view of raising public appreciation of science education.