December 10, 2001 Vol. VI, No. 8

Northridge Receives $809,882 Grant to Aid Science Teachers

Program Will Help LAUSD Science Teachers Make Topic More Exciting and Meet New State Standards

Cal State Northridge has been awarded an $809,882 grant from the California Postsecondary Education Commission to help local teachers make science learning more exciting and appealing, particularly for students in low-performing schools.

The three-year grant from the Eisenhower Professional Development Program will fund "The Los Angeles Super-Funded Science Leader Initiative at Cal State Northridge" from this December through September 2004. The program expects to involve 31 schools and reach about 120 public school science teachers.

With the planned lead involvement of Reseda High School and about a half dozen middle schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the program through Northridge's Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology expects to train science teachers who will reach more than 18,000 students during the duration of the grant.

The grant will fund efforts designed to help teachers make science exciting and something kids want to learn, while also meeting the state's new science standards. The program will work closely with LAUSD teachers in the San Fernando Valley, many of whom have emergency credentials and no training in the sciences.

"Science can be exciting or science can be boring, depending on how it's taught," said Steven Oppenheimer, a CSUN biology professor and one of five co-directors of the project(left). "Our programs are designed to excite students about science. We have a lot of hands-on activities, a lot of experimental activities and a lot of discovery activities."

Oppenheimer said the program could become a national model for how to provide teacher enhancement programs that work. The other program co-directors are Northridge geological sciences professor Gerry Simila, assistant biology professor Virginia Vandergon, secondary education professor Norm Herr, and Tony Recalde, the science magnet director at Reseda High School.

Oppenheimer said the grant funding will allow the university's teacher enhancement program to operate year-round, which he called key for successful implementation of the program in the classroom. The university has already offered science training for teachers during the summer.

"But summer-only programs don't allow for immediate classroom implementation, and therefore are usually less successful," he said. "It's harder to carry on that excitement of a state-of-the-art lesson into a classroom if substantial time has passed."

Oppenheimer said the timing of the grant is particularly important given recent reports that California's students ranked last among 40 states in a nationwide examination on their science literacy.

"I think we are dealing with a crisis in science training as demonstrated by the scores on these exams," Oppenheimer said. "The security of this country is threatened because security is fully dependent on having the top scientists in the world. And if our science training is third-rate, then our security is definitely threatened."

The grant is the latest in a series to Northridge's Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology, which has garnered about $6 million in external funding in the past several decades, according to Oppenheimer, the center's director.

@csun | December 10, 2001 issue
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