IMPACT Grant to Promote Science, Math Programs

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Alice Huffard Richards Fund granted $100,000 for one year for IMPACT (Improving Motivation, Performance and Attitudes of Children and Teachers) for Science and Mathematics. At the end of the first year, an evaluation will determine if the grant will be renewed for two-year cycles at $100,000 per year for a possible funding of up to $300,000. The grant will be administered through the Community Foundation of West Georgia.

P.J. Hovey, chair of the Community Foundation’s Board, honored the late Alice Richards in her remarks as the Foundation awarded several million dollars in projects that invest in the benefit of the community.

“Alice was always involved in the non-profit fabric of this community and was instrumental in starting this Foundation,” she noted.

IMPACT for Science and Mathematics will offer innovative weekend and summer programs for elementary and middle school children to motivate them toward learning science and math.  Faculty from the university’s College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences will work together with area teachers to develop discipline- and grade-appropriate science kits to enhance the science teaching and learning experience in the classroom.

Dr. Beheruz N. Sethna, UWG president, stated, “Several sources, ranging from Tom Friedman, in his book, The World Is Flat… to the Shift Happens ‘You Tube’ video which is making the rounds on the Internet, make the point repeatedly that, given the enormous rate of creation of new knowledge and methods, particularly in science and math, educators have an exciting challenge ‘to prepare students for jobs that do not exist, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems that we don’t know yet.’ In this rapidly changing world, we particularly appreciate the visionary gift of the Alice Huffard Richards Fund to financially support our IMPACT program to assist with math and science education.”

IMPACT for Children will provide student-centered camps for regional K-8 students on selected weekends during the school year and summer holidays. IMPACT Saturday morning sessions will be offered monthly and the summer camp sessions will be one-week day camps offered for three age groups: grades K-2, grades 3-5, and grades 6-8.

The camps will use three instructional strategies including applied learning, cooperative learning and innovative uses of computer technology to enhance motivation and encourage new ways of thinking and behaving in the children. 

Just a few examples of the session topics include Amazing Power of Dry Ice, Geology Rocks!, Origami – Science or Art?, Does Nature Mimic Math or Math Mimic Nature?, and Science on Six Legs.

Professionals from the community will provide career information that will help the children envision how science and math knowledge is linked to all careers. The involvement of college students will allow the young children to have a close and personal view of a college experience which will hopefully inspire them to pursue higher education in the future.  It is also hoped that the interaction will inspire UWG students to choose science and math teaching as a career.

The grant proposal was written by Dr. Sharmistha Basu-Dutt, associate professor of chemistry, and Dr. Gail Marshall, temporary assistant professor of early childhood and elementary education.  The program will be run by a team of UWG scientists, science educators who will use their expertise and passion to motivate young children to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology.  

State-wide and national assessment data from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement show that students in Georgia consistently lag behind their peers in academic achievement and core subject proficiency.  The 2006-07 Georgia High School Graduation Tests show that over a quarter of all Georgia students failed the science sections on this exam and the three west Georgia counties have even higher failure rates.

“We are hopeful that this collaborative effort will lead to a statistically significant improvement in science and math scores and enhance scientific literacy in the region,” noted the grant authors.

“The IMPACT program is more than just teaching children to do well in science and math,” said Basu-Dutt.  “The open-ended nature of the activities will promote critical thinking and problem solving skills that will have long-term effects on the attitudes of the future generations of West Georgians.”