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Pair of SSU education groups awarded $3 million grant

Thursday, February 20th, 2014 | Posted by


Professor Lynn Cominsky (left) and Project Director Susan Wandling (courtesy of SSU)

Professor Lynn Cominsky (left) and Project Director Susan Wandling (courtesy of SSU)

A $3 million-dollar grant will help implement an innovative curriculum bringing engineering and hands-on science to high schools in Mendocino County.

The “Learning by Making: STEM Success for Mendocino County” curriculum, designed by Project Director Susan Wandling and Professor Lynn Cominsky, teaches students to construct and design their own experiments in making scientific measurements that prove relevant to the future of the planet and economy.

The program involves coding in the Logo programming language and analysis of data from a variety of laboratory sensors to focus on real-world problem solving.

“One of the biggest hurdles to creating the next generation of scientists and engineers is learning how to write computer programs. The Logo language was designed for five-year olds to give instructions to computers and is ideal for interfacing to experiments that the students themselves can design,” said Cominsky.

The two SSU education groups that teamed up to win the grant are the Sonoma State’s Early Academic Outreach program, led by Wandling, and SSU’s Education and Public Outreach group, led by Cominsky. Both groups will work together to improve student performance and provide opportunities to students who attend six rural high schools in Mendocino County.

The Mendocino County Office of Education and external evaluators at WestEd were also partners in the project.

The grant is part of the Investing in Innovation, or i3, program from the Department of Education. The program is aimed at creating programs that will have an impact on not only improving student achievement but also increasing college enrollment.

“We are really excited by the opportunity to work with under-served and high-needs school districts in Mendocino County to improve student performance in science and math, and to increase the number of Mendocino county students that are qualified to attend the CSU and UC systems” said Cominsky, the STEM Director for the project.

“I have long wanted to work with school districts in Mendocino County,” said Susan Wandling, Project Director. “Partnering with Lynn Cominsky’s group gives my team the chance to expand our college readiness efforts to rural areas and to gain the expertise needed to ensure student success in STEM,” she said.

After meeting with principals and teachers at the partner schools, everyone is ready to get started with the project. However they still face one hurdle which is to raise the rest of the matching funds that the i3 program requires. The project is looking for cash donations along with equipment donations of computers, experimental sensors and expertise, especially in biology.

(Source ~ Sonoma State University)

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