Campus: CSU Northridge -- November 28, 2001

CSUN Receives $800,000 to Train Teachers in Science

Cal State Northridge has received more than $800,000 from the California State Post Secondary Education Commission to train teachers in science.

The three-year grant, from the commission's Eisenhower Professional Development Program, will fund "The Los Angeles Super-Funded Science Leader Initiative at Cal State Northridge, " which will provide science curriculum training for teachers in primarily low-performing schools with high percentages of underrepresented youngsters.

"What this funding allows us to do is provide teacher enhancement programs year round, and that's the key for successful implementation of the program in the classroom," said Steven Oppenheimer, a CSUN biology professor and one of five co-directors of the project.

Oppenheimer said the university has offered science training for teachers during the summer.

"But summer-only programs don't allow for immediate classroom implementation, and therefore are usually less successful," he said. "It's harder to carry on that excitement of a state-of-the-art lesson into a classroom if a substantial time has passed."

Oppenheimer said the timing of the grant is particularly fortuitous given recent reports that California's students ranked dead last among 40 states in a nationwide examination of their science literacy.

"I think that we are dealing with a crisis in science training as demonstrated by the scores on these exams," Oppenheimer said. "The security of this country is threatened because security is fully dependent on having the top scientists in the world. And if our science training is third rate, then our security is definitely threatened."

Oppenheimer said the Eisenhower grant is funding a program designed to help teachers make science exciting and something kids want to learn, while at the same time meeting the state's new science standards.

"Science can be exciting or science can be boring, depending on how it's taught," he said. "Our programs are designed to excite students about science. We have a lot of hands-on activities, a lot of experimental activities and a lot of discovery activities. We expect our program will become a national model for how to go about providing teacher enhancement programs that work."

Oppenheimer said the program will be working closely with the Los Angeles Unified School District officials in the San Fernando Valley to help teachers, many of whom have emergency credentials and no training in the sciences, learn how to make science fun.

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