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New stories about the GEMS-NET project

submitter: GEMS-NET (Guiding Education in Math & Science Network)
description: New Stories about the GEMS-NET LSC project.
published: 10/29/1998
posted to site: 10/27/1998

$1.3 million grant to URI boosts science education

By Dave Lavallee

A University of Rhode Island professor has been awarded a five-year, $1.3 million federal grant to help turn southern Rhode Island elementary and middle school youngsters into junior scientists.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the "Guiding Education in Math and Science Education Network," was developed by Betty Young, URI associate professor of education, and a team of URI scientists and Rhode Island educators.

The project's goal is to provide a hands-on science curriculum to teachers so that more than 11,000 public elementary and middle school students in southern Rhode Island will become more excited about science.

"This project is an effort to change the very infrastructure of science education by guaranteeing outstanding science experiences for children," Young said.

The project began with workshops in May and involved 40 URI scientists acting as mentors and trainers for teachers. The scientists worked closely with lead teachers from different districts, who will in turn train their colleagues. About a third of the more than 350 teachers from the six districts participated.

Young said she has been working on such initiatives for two-and-a-half years through some smaller federal grants, but this new award allowed her and her team to provide the training for a wider range of students and teachers.

"Internally, it's a partnership between teacher education and the community of scientists at the University," said Barbara Brittingham, dean of URI's College of Human Science and Services, which houses the Department of Education. "Externally, it's a partnership between the schools and URI to help provide exciting science education for elementary and middle grade students."

In the past, most elementary school teachers may have focused only on life or animal sciences in a very limited way in their classrooms, Young said. But through this program, they'll learn about magnets and motors, simple machines, recycling, air and weather, how plants propagate, and even the salt levels in water.

"It's hands-on, minds-on," Young added. "The materials let the kids take on the role of scientist."

"It's science for everyone," added Barbara Sullivan-Watts, URI senior marine research scientist and a member of the grant team. "You're getting life sciences, earth and space sciences, physical sciences and technology."

Young said so many teachers in the community are already well-schooled in how to make their classrooms interesting places to be. "Now we have the likelihood of building a community of learners and teachers here at URI. Scientists can learn from many of the elementary school teachers about the dynamics of teaching," said Young.

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