|April 22, 2008
From: Laura Harris, Director of Media Relations
(318) 342 - 5447, email@example.com
ULM's outreach focuses on rural Louisiana schools
Most high school students in northern Louisiana have never conducted a hands-on science experiment. Using part of a $700,000 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), the University of Louisiana at Monroe is trying to change that by bringing high school science teachers and students to campus for a summer science program that emphasizes discovery and hands-on science.
The college is expanding the program, which currently has space for about 50 students and eight teachers. Every spring the university receives hundreds of applications — and there is too much demand for too few spaces in the program. "Many of the students are interested in science, but their only context is that they want to be a doctor," said Ann Findley, a biology professor and program director of the HHMI grant. "Here they get an idea of what it's like to do real science."
One week there might be a "crime scene" to evaluate in the lab, which introduces students to DNA testing and forensic science. Another week students might take plant samples from farm fields and grocery stores and then analyze them in the lab to see if any of the plants have been genetically modified.
About 30 to 35 percent of the students in the program go on to become students at the university, Findley said. Not all become science majors, "but even the ones who go into business or liberal arts are informed by their science background," she said. "Their interests tend to be interdisciplinary."
Teachers who have been through this summer program can borrow lab kits that include equipment and supplies that allow teachers to recreate the program's experiments in their classrooms. "By going out into the schools through these alumni teachers, we can reach many more students" than possible with the summer program, Findley said.
Faculty members also visit local schools to do large-scale, day-long demonstrations, such as isolating DNA. "Students come in, and then leave with a little tube of their DNA," Findley said. "They love that. It's very important for students, whether they study science or even go to a university, to at least get a context in which to put their science instruction."
The university is also using part of its grant to start a mentoring program with Monroe's Ouachita Parish School System. Science faculty members and graduate and undergraduate students will participate in tutoring programs for middle school and high school students. Faculty members also will serve as mentors for high school teachers with advanced placement science courses.
For more information about this program, contact Findley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (318) 342-1817.