June 2, 2023 – Media Literacy Now, in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), has launched a project to help young people better evaluate science-related information they encounter in media of all kinds. HHMI has dedicated funding to this effort, as well as in-kind resources. The two organizations have identified steps to support educators and are convening science, media, and education stakeholders from a broad range of perspectives to develop resources while changing the public policy discourse.

“We hear from teachers all the time that the landscape of information is increasingly challenging for their students to navigate, but that navigation is integral to scientific literacy,” said Marjee Chmiel, Ph.D., HHMI Director of Evaluation for Science Education, Media, and Journalism. “In a world that increasingly relies on a fluency in science and technology, scientific media literacy is essential to everyone’s health, happiness, and well-being.”

MLN will work with HHMI and science education organizations to develop resources, and to spread the word about the need for media literacy in science class, and how to implement that instruction.

“There is an urgent need for resources to help young people resist the proliferation of false and manipulative science-related information on TikTok, YouTube, cable news and other media,” said Erin McNeill, president and founder of Media Literacy Now. “Educators also need support and buy-in from their administrators and district policymakers.”

In Phase 1, MLN is assembling teachers, academics, media professionals, and other relevant stakeholders to help identify specifically what students should learn in science classes from elementary grades through high school to help them better evaluate information they encounter in the media related to science and technology. For example, students should understand the idea of “scientific consensus” and how qualified scientists work together to reach conclusions about new knowledge.

This project is timely because policymakers, teacher organizations, and others are more concerned than ever about the problem of false and misleading information that spreads easily in the modern media landscape. For example, the National Academy of Sciences Board on Science Education recently held a public workshop on “Understanding and addressing misinformation about science”; The Science Teacher, a publication of the National Science Teaching Association, published a special issue on Scientific Media Literacy; and a Nobel Prize Summit is hosting a solution panel focusing on how media literacy education can help address the lack of truth and trust in scientific news and information.

The need for people to be able to make good decisions in their daily lives based on science-related news and information is clear. As a Carnegie Corp. report on K-12 science education notes, misinformation likely contributed to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths during the COVID pandemic, and motivated the nation to reevaluate science education. Current science education standards were written before media technology created a system in which misinformation became such a harmful problem. Science teachers need new lesson plans and other materials to help students make better judgments about information they see, hear, or read.

Media Literacy Now (MLN) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, national organization working to change and modernize educational policy to include the teaching of media literacy in K-12 education in the US. The organization has an extensive network of changemakers in states all across the country, a successful record in policy reform, and a commitment to creating a world where young people have the skills they need to thrive in a digital world.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) advances the discovery and sharing of scientific knowledge to benefit us all. Founded in 1953, HHMI is a biomedical research organization and philanthropy that supports a vibrant community of researchers, educators, students, and professionals.

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