YWCA wins grant to teach science

December 30, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The YWCA of Annapolis has received a $600,000 grant to develop a program to teach adolescents, especially girls, about science, and to help them pass their knowledge on to children when they baby-sit.

The goal, according to one of the directors of the "Science Minders" program, is to get youngsters interested in technical fields, in which American children consistently lag behind youngsters from other countries.

"Despite efforts in the past decade, American children still fall behind much of the world in knowledge of the sciences," according to a statement issued by the YWCA of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.

The grant money, from the National Science Foundation, will last 2 1/2 years, enough time for Dr. John H. Falk and Dr. Patricia R. Roche to develop their learning package, which will be tested in 400 YWCAs throughout the country before it is marketed.

Mr. Falk, who is president of Science Learning, a nonprofit education-research company in Annapolis, said baby-sitters are the best ways to spread the information.

"This will help the youngsters do a better job at baby-sitting," Mr. Falk said. "And in the process, they will learn about science."

The YWCA was chosen, Mr. Falk said, because it has an extensive baby-sitting training program that includes first-aid courses.

Possible topics will include simple electricity, magnetism, kitchen chemistry, the science of camouflage and cosmetics, the physics of music, simple engineering and neighborhood ecology.

A video also will be developed, said Mr. Falk, who added that the biggest challenge is to get children interested in science away from school classrooms. Baby-sitting, he believes, is a way of targeting a selected audience.

"Although many young adolescents enjoy the responsibility and economic independence they derive from baby-sitting, they may not know how to entertain . . . other than to turn on the TV," the YWCA statement says.

For example, a baby-sitter could play blocks with a youngster, Mr. Falk said.

But instead of simply playing, the baby-sitter could show the child how to build a specific kind of bridge.

The material his company develops will demonstrate bridge-building techniques that can be passed along from baby-sitter to child, he said.

"I'm really sure this will work," Mr. Falk said.

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