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Manual Hernandez Receives Distinguished Science Education Award

The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the largest professional organization in the world promoting excellence and innovation in science teaching, has announced the recipients of its 2011 Teacher Awards Program, which honors K–12 teachers, professors, principals, and others for their outstanding achievement and innovative programs in science education. The awards were presented at a special banquet and ceremony at NSTA’s 59th National Conference on Science Education in San Francisco, California, that concluded yesterday March 13, 2011.

NSTA will present its Distinguished Informal Science Education Award to Manuel Hernandez, Informal Science Specialist, City of Fresno Parks, After School, Recreation and Community Services. The Distinguished Informal Science Education Award honors an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the advancement of science education in an informal or nontraditional school setting, such as a science-technology center, zoo, or community center.

Mr. Hernandez brings a broad range of skills, knowledge, and experience to his job, specifically in K-8 Environmental/Informal Science Education for the City of Fresno. Manuel was raised in East Los Angeles, and often came to Fresno with his family.  Manuel found that his interest in a science field, specifically informal science and his ability to connect with students in the valley in under privileged neighborhoods was his direction for his next career move.  Over the following five years from lessons learned and observing the surrounding communities, Manuel was first recognized by the National Science Foundation when he was targeted to start the very first Community Science Workshop in Fresno.  Due to his diligence, persistence, leadership skills and dedication to the youth of Fresno, he has become a recognized national model for his success. 

In 2003 Manuel helped bring the Science Mobile Workshop to Fresno, the first of its kind in the nation.  This program was funded by a Congressional FIE grant and supported through a unique partnership with the City of Fresno Parks Recreation and Community Services Department and the Fresno Unified School District.  Complete with mobile labs and workstations, this new learning tool helped enhance Informal Science Programs and increase awareness and interest in STEM education.  In 2009 a second Mobile Science Workshop was added to the program, allowing expansion of services to the greater Fresno County region. 

Manuel’s efforts in creating opportunities for under served urban youth to engage with science and with their own learning have become an effective model.  These youth have too few places near their homes where they can spend their out-of-school time in a safe, productive, science-rich environment where knowledgeable adults are focused on their personal, social, and intellectual development. Manuel’s vision and values-based approach, with the sciences at the heart of the work, has been vital to its success and will continue to be so.