Looking for a Lab-Coat Idol

The science role models most students know best are their teachers. But science teachers who are both passionate and prepared are scarce

Many of this country's naturally gifted scientists--its most inquisitive, observant, persistent citizens--share a handicap: they can't read yet. They also can't play with matches, focus microscopes or see over lab tables. "Children love to explore the natural world. They love to make sense out of it," says Carlo Parravano, director of the Merck Institute for Science Education, which trains teachers in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. "By fourth grade, we squash that curiosity with the way we teach science."

The years from Baby Einstein to AP physics are an increasing source of worry for corporations like Merck and for colleges and universities, which...

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