Project aims to jump-start students' love of learning


By KRISTEN KING                                                                    Published on 2/22/00, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Advocate staff writer

Two Southern University professors are spearheading a $1 million
project to show students the relevance of learning.

Chemistry Professor Robert Ford and physics Professor Diola
Bagayoko said they hope that as students realize why they're learning,
they'll want to keep learning rather than drop out of school.

The PIPELINES project focuses on earth science and has something for
all levels, from kindergarten through graduate school.

It will offer teacher training, add new science equipment to 14
elementary, middle and high schools and provide summer programs for
high school and college students.

PIPELINES stands for Program to Increase the Pursuit of Education and
Learning In Engineering and Science.

A desire to show students the relevance of their learning is one of the
main reasons for concentrating on earth science, Bagayoko said.

"Guess what? We're on Earth, and everyone is in the weather every day,"
he said. "These are things that even before they come to first grade, kids
relate to. That's why earth science is ideal."

Another reason for the focus is that the $1 million grant for the project is
from NASA's Earth Science Enterprise.

The money is dedicated to the first year of the program, and the
professors said they're waiting to hear about second-year funding. But
Bagayoko said the program is structured so it will continue if funding
drops off.

For instance, one component is a new help desk within Southern's
College of Education where elementary and secondary school teachers
can call for help in improving their teaching, he said.

That part of the project was created because an analysis of an
international math and science study shows teachers in the United States
lack the same support resources that teachers have in higher-performing
countries, Bagayoko said.

Also, the equipment going to the elementary and secondary schools and
the training of teachers to use that equipment will be paid for with
first-year funding, Ford said.

The equipment and training are connected to the GLOBE program,
which lets students throughout the country gather environmental science
data that's then archived and used around the world.

GLOBE stands for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the
Environment. Students, for instance, will learn to measure cloud cover,
water quality and wind speed, Ford said.

It will be ready to go in the 14 schools by the start of next school year.
Thirteen of the schools are public schools. Southern Lab School also is
included.

The public schools are Crestworth, Progress, Harding, Beechwood and
Forest Heights elementary schools; Crestworth, Istrouma, Prescott and
Glen Oaks middle schools; and Baker, Capitol, Glen Oaks and
Scotlandville high schools.

Teachers from all kindergarten through 12th-grade schools in East Baton
Rouge Parish will be included in the project through parishwide
workshops, Bagayoko said. Those workshops, which start in March, will
focus on ways to make teaching effective.

Ford said he expects the program to evolve.

"I'm going to a couple of schools to meet with the teachers and
principals, and they're going to help us invent this program," he said.
"We're also talking to parents to see what works for them."

David Corona, executive director of high schools for East Baton Rouge
Parish, said he's excited about the partnership between Southern and the
local public schools.

"Programs like this give meaning to learning," he said.

Other components of PIPELINES include:

A partnership with Iowa State University that could help Southern
"renovate" some of its science courses, Bagayoko said.
A summer program that provides financial support to 20
high-achieving undergraduate students who do research projects.
A six-week summer academic program at Bagayoko's Timbuktu
Academy designed to improve test scores of high school students
and expose them to earth sciences.