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College Receives Grant for Program Aimed at Helping Teachers

Local newspaper coverage of SCHEV grant

5/26/2009 10:42:39 AM

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The following article was published in the Lynchburg News & Advance on May 26, 2009. It is reprinted with permission.

By Christa Desrets

Randolph College next year will offer a summer science institute for 60 local elementary and middle school teachers who will learn how to use exploratory methods to attract more students to the sciences from an early age.

The college recently was awarded a $120,000 grant from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. The college also will match $60,000 of that, for a $180,000 total project.

“The goal is to get kids more interested in science,” said Peter Sheldon, a physics professor at Randolph and one of four project directors. “One of the ways to do that is to work with teachers.”

The funding is part of SCHEV’s 2009-10 Improving Teacher Quality State Grant Program, and is designed to help schools meet federal No Child Left Behind requirements.

As the capstone of the project, Randolph’s faculty team and Lynchburg College Education Professor Woody McKenzie will host a weeklong science and math institute next summer.

Sixty teachers from schools in Lynchburg, Amherst County, Campbell County and Bedford County, as well as New Vistas School, will be chosen to learn hands-on, inquiry-based teaching methods for material required under the Standards of Learning.

“Teachers are always looking for good ideas that help them teach those objectives,” said Randolph Education Professor Peggy Schimmoeller.

Teachers may be recommended for the program by their schools, or they can apply directly to Randolph College.

The methods they’ll focus on next summer encourage students to learn through discovery.

For example, instead of asking a student to measure the effect of gravity on a falling ball, Sheldon said, the teacher would “take a ball, drop it, observe it” and ask students to draw conclusions about it.

Teachers sometimes hesitate to use that method, Sheldon said, because it’s so open-ended that students could ask questions that the teacher would be unprepared to answer.

The Randolph team hopes to ease these concerns by offering a Web site with teacher resources such as lesson plans and videos of classroom activities.

Also, classroom support will be offered to the teachers who participate, and some teachers will be able to practice the new methods with students at the Jubilee Family Development Center before the school year starts.

The group also will continue to offer science programs for students at Jubilee this and next summer.

Schimmoeller said math also will be an important part of the program because students who are weak in the subject tend to shy away from taking high-level science courses that use math.

Sheldon said one way to lessen that anxiety is through integrating math into science classes at a much earlier age, so students are accustomed to the idea by the time they take high-level sciences such as physics and chemistry.

“This is where we lose most of our students in the college level,” Sheldon said.

“This will provide teachers with a different arsenal of things they can do in the classroom to help students. That’s the bottom line here. We want to help our local teachers get kids excited about math and science.”

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CONTACT: Brenda Edson, Director of College Relations


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