2011-12-22 / News

Fifth grade awarded money for math, science

BY KATHLEEN MCKIERNAN

For the past year, sixth-graders at the Lawn Avenue School have been learning science and math in an experimental learning setting through the Science and Math Scholars Project (SAMS). With a $68,750 grant from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation to the Jamestown Education Foundation, fifth-graders will now get the same learning experience.

At the School Committee meeting on Dec. 8, project manager Furhana DiBiase announced that Jamestown can now make the NASA-sponsored SAMS project school-wide at the Lawn Avenue School.

“Were excited to continue to make math and science education in Jamestown the best it can be,” Superintendent Marcia Lukon said.

Funded by a $200,000 appropriation from NASA, SAMS is a partnership between JEF and Lawn Avenue School designed to generate enthusiasm for math and science, and to improve student performance. The program started last year in the sixth grade where students learned about sustainable living and connected real world research at local universities, farms and businesses.

DiBiase said though the program is concluding in December, JEF will have enough money to continue the program for fifthgraders in January.

For the fifth grade, the project will complement students’ ongoing involvement with Starbase- Atlantis, a 25-hour program of hands-on projects focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). It is sponsored by the Department of Defense at the Newport Naval Base.

“Starbase captivates young minds early with the hopes that they may continue to explore the STEM fields and careers with the same fascination,” DiBiase said. “Our goal is to continue this in fifth grade next year. It gives us ideas how we’re going to integrate this and make it fun.”

For one project last year, students traveled to Roger Williams University and to Matunuck Oyster Farm in South Kingstown to explore the aquaculture facilities and use them as models for their own aquaculture efforts in the classroom. Another project trained students to act as real scientists in research. DiBiase said last year students had crop failures and found chemicals in the town water that was killing the plants. To solve the problem, students studied the water to find out why the plants were not thriving. DiBiase said students discovered that the nutrients needed to be changed. This year, the students replanted and saw their plants thrive.

Last year, the seventh- and eighth-grade students focused on renewable energy, learning how electricity is generated. In March, National Grid spoke to the science classes about electricity generation and usage to give students a real-world perspective on local energy consumption.

“These are really problems. This is what scientists are doing,” DiBiase said.

DiBiase said last year’s $200,000 grant from NASA allowed the students to attend many field trips. The grant has allowed JEF to pay for field trips and transportation through the 2011-12 school year. In the future, students will be charged for the cost of the trips. Most field trips only required transportation costs, where speakers, scientists and presenters provide in-kind services.

Costs in 2011 to sustain SAMS included $5,000 for transportation and admission for the overnight trip to the Museum of Science in Boston, $500 for ongoing maintenance, and $1,000 for hydroponics, All was paid through the grant. The total cost excluding the museum trip was $2,100 last year. Next year the project will cost $1,100.

In other school news, Lukon reported that Aspen Security, the company contracted to provide grades online, stated there was no fault in the November incident where some students’ grades were sent to their emergency contacts. She stated Aspen informed the district that it was a matter of communication. Aspen has since developed easier-to-understand instructions for going forward.

“When I was talking to them I said I’m not looking to place blame but I’m looking for what happened,” Lukon said.

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