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NSF Grant Supports Outreach to Schools

A grant from the National Science Foundation supports the UCI Libraries’ SPIRIT Program (School Partnerships in Research and Information Technology), an outreach effort that brings K-12 students to campus and takes research librarians into the community, both in support of helping students develop lifelong learning skills.

During the 2003-2004 academic year, the program reached 1,300 students from more than forty intermediate, junior high and high school classrooms in Southern California . Students participated in customized library research sessions that enriched their regular math and science curriculum with information literacy concepts. UCI faculty and research librarians met with school teachers and students from Santa Ana, Compton and Westside Newport school districts in this unique effort.

“One of the goals of SPIRIT is to combine library research with other hands-on learning activities,” said Tom Babayan, SPIRIT Program Coordinator. “Recently we’ve collaborated with the Department of Physics and Astronomy to reinforce key concepts learned through library research with a visit to UCI’s astronomical observatory. It’s this collaboration between local schools and universities that enables SPIRIT to help improve teacher effectiveness and student achievement.” SPIRIT has also collaborated with UCI’s departments of Chemistry and Dance, as well as academic counselors. In addition to bringing students to UCI, SPIRIT also sponsors the Compton Teachers Information Literacy Institute, a program that equips high school teachers to incorporate information literacy concepts in their classrooms.

Robert Reyes, a teacher from Compton’s Whaley Intermediate School, recently brought his sixth-grade class to UCI to study the organization of math-oriented websites on the Internet. "The instructors are highly skilled and knowledgeable. This is a great resource for our young people," said Mr. Reyes. "Other classes have studied a diverse range of specific research topics, such as the biology of desert fauna and modern African American dance legends."

SPIRIT is funded in part through FOCUS (Faculty Outreach Collaborations Uniting Scientists, Students and Schools), a grant provided by NSF as part of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind educational reform. FOCUS aims to improve mathematics and science achievement in three high-need California school districts by uniting the efforts of mathematics, science, education and research library faculty and staff with educators from local community colleges, educational support agencies, and school districts.

For more information about the project, please contact Tom Babayan (x49826 or tbabayan@uci.edu).

 

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