Campus News

UGA doctoral student creates after-school science program for Latino students

Athens, Ga. – A University of Georgia doctoral candidate in science education has developed an after-school science enrichment program at an Athens high school specifically designed to benefit Latino students.

The Latino After School Physical Science program at Cedar Shoals High School is designed to enhance Latino students’ knowledge of physical science through exposure to science concepts and science inquiry activities. These range from ongoing hands-on activities spanning the entire semester to short inquiry activities during class times.

“The program has benefitted the students immensely,” said Regina Suriel, who created and began the LASPS program in January as part of her dissertation under the supervision of Mary Atwater, a professor of science education in the College of Education.

“They are working in small groups with peers who also speak Spanish, receiving instruction in both Spanish and English, and are reviewing and mastering learning skills and science concepts,” said Suriel.”Unfortunately, these opportunities are not available during regularly scheduled classes.”

The students are currently designing and constructing their own wooden derby cars for a future competitive race. The aim of this project is to have the students apply their knowledge of science, particularly Newton’s laws of motion, to a hands-on project, said Suriel. The students also have taken several field trips to UGA, where they have experienced presentations about physics, large telescopes and an electron microscope.

The hour and 15-minute class is taught by Suriel twice a week and overseen by a science teacher from Cedar Shoals. Two undergraduate students from UGA also tutor the students as part of a class assignment.

“The student teachers are getting practical experience and developing knowledge and skills while working with Latino students,” said Suriel. “One of the pre-service teachers is very active in designing and implementing lessons. This is a unique experience for him, as he gets the opportunity to be mentored in specific areas and curricula while working with students of diverse linguistic backgrounds.”

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which provided the grant for the LASPS program, identified Cedar Shoals as a specific location where the grant money could be used.Suriel also had done extensive volunteer work at Cedar Shoals in the past and had recognized the great need for a science enrichment program specifically targeting Latino students.

“Latino students are consistently underachieving academically, dropping out of school and feeling excluded from equal educational opportunities,” said Suriel. “It is amazing that a school so close to UGA can be meeting so many challenges when it comes to preparing our youngsters for college admission.”

There are eight students currently enrolled in the program, both male and female, from ninth through eleventh grades. The program meets after school every Tuesday and Thursday at Cedar Shoals.

While it is currently scheduled to conclude at the end of April, Suriel and Atwater have applied for funding to continue the program in future semesters. Findings from this study will inform future teachers about how to effectively teach Latino students, according to Suriel and Atwater.