Within general education, priority is given to institutions and organizations that offer educational opportunities and promote academic achievement in one or more of the following areas:
Programs focus on multiple points in the education pipelinefrom early childhood to postsecondary education. Key programs that Merck and The Merck Company Foundation support in this area include:
Reach Out and Read—This program prepares America's youngest childrenespecially those growing up in povertyto succeed in school by partnering with doctors to prescribe reading books and encourage families to read together. The program recruits pediatricians and nurse practitioners to make literacy a standard part of well-child visits for children ages six months through five years. Physicians distribute new books to children at each visit and advise parents on the importance of reading aloud to their children. They also provide parents with literacy strategies for each developmental stage. In 2011, 30 Merck employee volunteers helped model good literacy practices by reading aloud to children in “literacy-rich” waiting rooms.
Sesame Workshop Education and Outreach Programs in China—Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Zhima Jie (Sesame Street) in China, is responsible for a number of educational initiatives in China.
In 2011, it launched the TV series Big Bird Looks at the World, which aims to foster children’s natural curiosity about their world and science and to promote “hands-on” exploration as a way of learning. By encouraging children to ask questions and explore those questions with age-appropriate experiments, this approach to science offers an alternative to China’s traditional didactic, memorization-based instruction, and should improve critical thinking and problem-solving skills. To date, the TV series has reached at least 17 million preschoolers (children between the ages of 4 and 6) and 30 million of their mothers in China.
In addition, Sesame Workshop will create Kindergarten Reading Corners in 125 schools in rural China, aiming to improve the educational outcomes of children living in rural provinces.
Sesame Workshop also launched a two-phase Zhima Jie educational community, a multimedia outreach project on emergency response and preparedness to help children and families cope in the aftermath of disasters as well as prepare for future potential emergencies. More than 115,000 children have been reached with these educational and outreach materials.
Liberty Science Center's Young Learner Lab—National science leaders note that young children need opportunities to explore science by participating in enriching programs that help develop literacy skills. The Young Learner Lab sessions at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey, designed for children between the ages of 3 and 8, provide developmentally appropriate learning sessions on such topics as elementary geology, simple machines, local flora and fauna, engineering, and architecture. Through Young Learner Lab sessions, children can develop early theories about scientific concepts that may stimulate their imaginative talk and play. Over time, children are able to reflect on their theories by evaluating evidence and constructing new theories.
Teach for America—This well-known program is recruiting highly qualified K12 mathematics and science teachers to work in public schools in Newark, Paterson and Elizabeth, New Jersey. In the 2010-2011 school year, Teach for America placed 46 new corps members, who joined 40 second-year corps members, as teachers in 37 of the districts’ most underserved and underperforming, schools, through which they reached more than 5,000 students. Of the 86 teachers (corps members), 34 were math and science teachers, representing a 5 percent increase from the previous year. For the coming school year, Teach for America experienced a 50 percent increase in demand for teachers in the Newark public schools and expanded its placement to Orange, New Jersey, public schools. The anticipated placement of 130 corps members is likely to reach 8,000 students.
Rutgers University Future Scholars Program—This program is designed to address the critical educational needs of promising but underserved students in New Jersey, by identifying at-risk, low-income and first-generation students before they enter the eighth grade. Mentors work with these students from eighth grade through high school as positive role models. The program also offers college-level developmental courses to prepare the students for college. Should the students qualify and elect to attend Rutgers University, they receive a four-year, tuition-free education.
In June 2011, the third cohort of students from New Brunswick, Piscataway, Newark and Camden public schools entered the Rutgers Future Scholars (RFS) program, which to date has supported 600 students.
Selected 2011 Outcomes:
W. E. B. DuBois Scholars Institute—Founded in 1988, the W. E. B. DuBois Scholars Institute is a “bridge” program designed to develop a cadre of young people committed to inspiring hope and vision in needy communities and eliminating poverty and racism in U.S. society. The 2011 Institute consisted of 18 middle school students (pre-scholars) and 33 high school students (scholars) from locations across the U.S., including: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Alaska, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. A grant from The Merck Company Foundation supported the tuition, board and related expenses for 25 students from Newark, New Jersey, public schools to participate in the Institute.