A major grant to help kindergarten teachers learn more about incorporating science into their lessons will provide training this summer, plus a "science camp," for about 75 first-graders.
The science camp will be a way for the teachers to try out some of the new methods and projects they learn.
Elementary education supervisors Bo Ann Bowman and Michael Perichspent six months writing the application for the $250,000 grant fromthe National Science Foundation.
Gary Dunkleberger, director of curriculum and staff development, urged them to apply for the grant, they said. He had some years earlier received a grant from the organization to improve science education in the elementary grades. However,kindergarten was left out.
"Historically, elementary school teachers are not trained as teachers of science," Perich said.
And unlike in high school, where students would merely switch classes to get a specialist teaching each subject, elementary students have one teacher for all subjects.
Bowman said the kindergarten curriculum is built around themes, within which students learn different subjects. For example, students can learn about animals from a scientific standpoint, learn to read and write about and even count them.
Perich said kindergartners are ripe for science information because they are naturally curious.
"The kids almost demand it," Perich said. "If they had good science in first grade, they expect it in the second."
The grant comes as the school system faces multimillion-dollar budget cuts and rapid growth.
"A quarter of a million dollar grant is very rare, and it couldn't have come at a better time," said Superintendent R. Edward Shilling.
Dunkleberger said the National Science Foundation gives most of its grants to colleges and universities. Overthe last two years, he said, the foundation has awarded grants to only three local school districts.
Bowman said this project won the grant because of the universal need for and lack of kindergarten science instruction. The Carroll project could serve as an example for other districts, she said.
"It has to make a difference at the stateor national level," Bowman said.
The money is to be spent over three years to train the approximately 40 kindergarten teachers in the school system, Bowman said.
The first 20 teachers to sign up will start training July 13 for a three-week session. Teachers will be paid for the training at a rate of up to $60 a day, the maximum allowed by the grant.
About 75 children in the Carrolltowne area who will finish kindergarten this spring will be given the chance to attend the summer camp. Teachers will be able to work with the children in thecamp to try out science projects they will later work on in their classes.
During the next school year, the teachers who were trained will pair up to visit each other's classes every few months to discuss how they are using what they learned over the summer, Bowman said.