REFOCUS initiative to connect veteran scientists, grade school students

Program will put science, technology, engineering and math professionals in classrooms to aid teachers with instruction

June 11, 2014

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Athens, Ga. - University of Georgia science, technology, engineering and math education advocates have launched a new program to help veteran scientists and engineers share their love of science with the next generation.

The REFOCUS program will train these professionals to work with teachers in Clarke and six surrounding counties to provide regular science and math enrichment activities directly tied to students' curriculum. The program was one of just seven programs nationwide funded by an American Association of for the Advancement of the Sciences program to bring volunteer science, technology, engineering and math—or STEM—mentors into schools.

The goal is to help students in kindergarten through 12th grade understand the underlying concepts of the math and science lessons they are learning from their teachers and to expose them to the entire breadth of STEM careers.

For the past 12 years, Knauft has coordinated a similar program—the Project FOCUS service-learning class—which pairs UGA students studying STEM subjects with elementary and middle school teachers in Clarke County.

REFOCUS will expand on the Project FOCUS framework, allowing science, technology, engineering and math mentors to be in even more Clarke County classrooms and in classrooms in surrounding counties.

"For quite some time, we have wanted to expand Project FOCUS to include graduate students, postdocs, faculty and retired scientists," said David Knauft, professor of horticulture in the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and STEM education advocate. "Thanks to this AAAS funding, we will be able to do so.

"Also, because these individuals have more flexible schedules, we hope to bring REFOCUS to nearby counties, something we haven't been able to do with Project FOCUS."

Knauft worked with the Clarke County School District; Julie Luft, the Athletic Association Professor of Mathematics and Science Education in the UGA College of Education; and Chuck Kutal, associate dean of the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, to secure a $14,800 grant from American Association for the Advancement of Science to help develop the REFOCUS program.

"This program will allow us to expand our STEM volunteer programs and to bring valuable experience and expertise of STEM professionals into our schools," said Noris Price, the deputy superintendent for the Clarke County School District.

The REFOCUS project will start recruiting its first class of STEM mentors this summer and debut the program in Clarke County classrooms this fall.

For more information on how to get involved in Project REFOCUS, contact Knauft at dknauft@uga.edu.

For more information on Project FOCUS, see www.focus.uga.edu.

 

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