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UCI Starts Science Teaching Project


IRVINE — Chemists, physicists and engineers will work with Orange County teachers in the classrooms of the future to make science more intriguing to students, as part of a $1.5-million project begun by UC Irvine.

The National Science Foundation recently awarded the university the five-year grant to enlist technical wizards from local companies who can help develop course work that youngsters may find more relevant.

"This is a major accomplishment in education because no one in the county has gotten corporate people together with university faculty and teachers to come up with a high school curriculum," project director Mare Taagepera said.

Ten focus groups, with two teachers, two students and two technical professionals in each, will anchor the Science, Technology and Society Network project, Taagepera said. They will review journals and books to find effective materials to teach science.

Teen-agers recruited for focus groups are unlikely to be class valedictorians or straight-A students. They generally will be "unusual students who may not be high achievers but may have a lot of creativity and find the regular stuff too boring," network co-director George Miller said.

Groups will examine such subjects as energy, the environment and artificial intelligence and robotics.

In turn, groups will present their findings to 30 high school and middle school teachers gathered at UCI's three-week Summer Science Institute in August. Those teachers will take what they have learned about science back to students in the coming school year, Miller said. Another 30 scientists will help the teachers expose their students to practical science.

Organizers intend to reach 110 teachers in the county by 1999 and link them with 110 professionals in the communities where they work or live. Participating companies will pay employees for their time, Miller said.

Teachers wil try to relate science to students' interests. "Perhaps people will look at new plastics that make better skateboard wheels, for example," Miller said.

Fluor Daniel engineers will talk to students at Santa Ana High School and Serrano Intermediate School in Lake Forest. Chevron will work with La Habra High School and Imperial Middle School in La Habra. Beckman Instruments Inc. will pair with Saddleback High School in Santa Ana. Allergan Inc. will also participate, but the company has not yet been paired with a school.

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