Kellogg Foundation science grant links college and middle school students


A two-year, $20,000 grant from the Kellogg Foundation will link Fairfield University students and Roger Ludlowe Middle School students in the study of science and technology and how they affect public policy.

The grant was awarded to Dr. Nancy Haegel, professor of physics at Fairfield University, whose goal, she says, "is to stimulate a lifelong interest in establishing and maintaining a level of scientific literacy" so that students can participate effectively in public debates that involve scientific principles.

Working with Dr. Haegel will be Pattie Hunt who has taught sixth grade for 17 years and is the Lead Science Teacher at Roger Ludlowe Middle School. Initially they plan to concentrate on two topics of public policy, one on nuclear energy with a national focus; and one on land and water use, with a local focus in and around Long Island Sound. Several weeks of science education will be followed by presentations in the classrooms from outside speakers.

"Inviting knowledgeable and active citizens, who in some cases are scientists, to speak with our students, is one of the key components of the project," Dr. Haegel explained. "These community members, who have invested their time and energy in areas of public policy are, we feel, a tremendous and underutilized resource. Ideally we will hear from advocates for opposing positions on each topic."

Mrs. Hunt said the project is an "ideal fit for our curriculum" where the theme is The Environment and Society's Impact. The approach to the subject matter adds great value to the project, she added. "We don't want students to merely memorize information. By exposing students to alternative points of view, you give them the opportunity to ask, "why." When they ask, "why," they engage in critical thinking and come to own the learning."

At the University, a new course will be offered for non-science majors on the topic of science and public policy. The college students will mentor middle school students as they study the same issues. These cooperative learning activities, Dr. Haegel pointed out, "will be fun for the younger students and provide them with positive role models while encouraging more active participation and preparation from the college students, some of whom may be interested in teaching or public policy as future careers."

As part of the two-year pilot program, Dr. Haegel and Pattie Hunt plan to write articles for educational journals and make materials available via a web site through both the middle school and the University. They would like to continue the project as a permanently funded program and expand it to include other Fairfield schools.

Dr. Nancy Haegel earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master's and doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been involved in presentations in the local school system since coming to Fairfield University six years ago. Awarded outstanding teaching awards at both UCLA and Fairfield University, she has completed three years as a Kellogg national Fellow and two years on the Defense Science study group.

Pattie Hunt holds a bachelor of science degree from Penn State University and a master's degree from Fairfield University. She teaches Language Arts and Science at Roger Ludlowe Middle School and has participated in the Connecticut Museum Collaborative, funded by the National Science Foundation.

The W. K. Kellogg Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to apply knowledge to solve the problems of people. Its founder W.K. Kellogg, the cereal industry pioneer, established the Foundation in 1930.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on December 15, 1999

Vol. 32, No. 119