Minority scientists encouraged with a sizable foundation grant

December 04, 1992|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer

The National Science Foundation has committed as much as $5 million to a team led by Morgan State University to encourage minorities to study math, science and engineering.

Morgan will use the money for programs in the Baltimore school system, including summer science or math camps, field trips, science fairs and innovative teaching techniques.

The goal is to attract minority students into fields where there are few role models and little glamour.

"The image of a scientist is not something many minorities aspire to," said Costello L. Brown, director of the program for the National Science Foundation.

The foundation has committed $700,000 to the Morgan-led partnership and will give another $4.3 million over the next five years as long as the project produces results, said Edmonia T. Yates, project director.

"The National Science Foundation doesn't just throw money away," said Dr. Yates, a retired deputy superintendent in the Baltimore school system.

Project officials, for example, have pledged to increase the number of minority students in the city who are enrolled in algebra by at least 10 percent by the end of this school year, Dr. Yates said.

Officials from Morgan, the foundation and the Baltimore school system gathered yesterday at Morgan for a ceremonial kick-off of the program, which began Oct. 1.

Colleges have often blamed high schools for not producing enough minority students who want to major in math and science, Dr. Brown said.

"It's time to stop that," Dr. Brown said. "It's time to work together."

The grant comes at a time when the school system is reassessing its math and science offerings, said Lillian Gonzales, deputy superintendent of the Baltimore system.

"We welcome the assistance from the center," Dr. Gonzales said.

The Morgan program is the 17th funded by the foundation since the effort began in 1988. The team hopes to make changes in all of Baltimore's public schools, Dr. Yates said. The changes might include putting hand-held models into math and science classrooms to help students grasp complicated principles.

Or the foundation money could be used to send teachers back to school for further training.

Businesses and academic enrichment programs will be involved, will the Maryland Science Center; National Technical Association and Towson State University, which sponsors weekend field trips for students involved in math and science.

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