Hood gets $837,295 from NSF

May 11, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

FREDERICK -- Hood College announced yesterday that it has been awarded an $837,295 grant by the National Science Foundation -- the largest in the school's 100-year history -- to train Frederick County teachers in hands-on science lessons.

Dean A. Wood, a Hood College education professor, said about 700 elementary teachers will receive training -- benefiting about 12,000 students. The grant also will be spent to update the hands-on science program and for related research.

Frederick's elementary science lessons provide students with hands-on activities in grades one through five. Students studying organisms, for example, might visit a field or wetlands for observations and then be introduced to concepts and language.

"We will look at the elementary science [program] through a microscope," said Mr. Wood, who will direct the three-year project. "We want to assure this program is out there 10 years from now. We want to make it even better."

20-year effort

Frederick schools have been teaching hands-on science to elementary students for about 20 years. Mr. Wood and Frederick educators said further training is needed for new teachers, those teaching science at new grade levels and for professional development.

"There are a variety of needs for teachers," Mr. Wood said. "It's not the old boring contents we remember."

Funding hands-on science programs is a priority for the National Science Foundation because such activities "reach people and we're concerned with putting money where it reaches people," said Mary Hanson, a foundation spokeswoman.

A good share of the $35 million in grants awarded this year for "informal education" projects involve hands-on education at museums and elsewhere, she said.

Details were not readily available yesterday on other Maryland institutions receiving informal education, teacher enhancement or other National Science Foundation grants.

Frederick schools Superintendent Daniel Gadra said the training project represents another opportunity to improve the county's science curriculum and to enhance opportunities for young girls in science.

The project is a result of a 1992 study of the elementary science program that found many teachers wanted more training, said Philip A. Brohawn, the county's science curriculum specialist. The school board has since hired seven science specialists to provide training for elementary teachers, he said.

Successful program

Mr. Wood said the school board's commitment to boosting science training was one of the reasons Hood College was awarded the grant. He also said Frederick schools have been successful in teaching the curriculum for years, and the project will provide data on why the program has succeeded there.

He said there isn't much research available on why such programs succeed at some schools and not at others. He said the National Science Foundation spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year for new programs and wants some assurances programs will continue.

Mr. Wood said the project will begin this summer with 18 weeks of training in elementary science and teaching strategies for the county's seven science specialists. The next year, about 30 of the county's head science teachers will receive training.

All teachers will receive training between 1995 and 1997, Mr. Wood said.

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