Campus: CSU Nortridge -- October 02, 2002

Innovative CSUN Program Transforms Middle Schoolers into 'Tomorrow's Scientists'

Science can often seem like a complex foreign subject that's best to be avoided when you're 13, but some Cal State Northridge students hope to tear down those misconceptions for a group of middle schoolers this semester.

Every Tuesday for the next eight weeks, seventh graders from six local middle schools are traveling to CSUN for an intense after-school program designed to increase the youngsters' interest in the life sciences. The program started Sept. 9.

The seventh graders work alongside CSUN freshmen and sophomores conducting experiments, taking part in interactive projects and going on short field trips to the campus' botanical garden and planetarium.

"Kids at the middle school level tend to lose interest in science," said Virginia Vandergon, an assistant professor of biology and coordinator of the "Tomorrow's Scientists" program. "I hope that this program lets them see that science is fun, and will get them interested in the subject."

Vandergon said the program also gives the middle schoolers an opportunity to experience what it is like to be on a college campus and meet with CSUN students who can be mentors to them.
The program is coordinated by CSUN's Department of Biology and the university's Center for Community-Service Learning. In addition to biology, the departments of chemistry and environmental and occupational health are also taking part.

The CSUN students participating in the project are enrolled in an accelerated future teachers program that will allow them to get their baccalaureate degrees and teaching credential in just four years.

"This is a wonderful program that will allow aspiring future teachers to gain practical experience in the subject matter they are learning, while providing a meaningful service to the community — better student education," said Maureen Rubin, director of the Center for Community-Service Learning.

The schools taking part in the program are Mulholland Middle School in Van Nuys, Van Nuys Middle School, Holmes Middle School in Northridge, John Sutter Middle School in Canoga Park, Patrick Henry Middle School in Granada Hills and Olive Vista Middle School in Sylmar.
A science teacher from each of the middle schools has been invited to take part in the program and learn new and innovative ways of enhancing their own classes.

"Tomorrow's Scientists" is partially funded by the Eisenhower Foundation, CSUN's Center for Management and Organizational Development, the Governor's Service-Learning Curriculum and Infrastructure Development Initiative and CSUN's Department of Biology.

Launched in 1998, CSUN's Center for Community-Service Learning aims to inspire, encourage and support students and faculty in their pursuit of academic excellence through involvement in meaningful community service.

For more information about the Center for Community-Service Learning, call (818) 677-7395.

Media Contact: Carmen Ramos Chandler (818) 677-2130

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