LEARNING BY MAKING: SSU Driving $3 Million Grant for Innovations in STEM Education in Mendocino High Schools

mendostemaa.pngTwo SSU education groups have teamed up to win a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to implement an innovative curriculum that will bring hands-on science and engineering to Mendocino County high schools. 

 The "Learning by Making: STEM Success for Mendocino County" curriculum designed by Project Director Susan Wandling and Professor Lynn Cominsky, teaches students to construct and design their own experiments in making scientific measurements that prove relevant to the future of the planet and economy.

The program involves coding in the Logo programming language and analysis of data from a variety of laboratory sensors to focus on real-world problem solving.


"One of the biggest hurdles to creating the next generation of scientists and engineers is learning how to write computer programs. The Logo language was designed for five-year olds to give instructions to computers and is ideal for interfacing to experiments that the students themselves can design," said Cominsky.


"We are building on the success of our tiny satellite recently launched into space, T-LogoQube, which used the Logo language for command and control, and also on the experience we gained designing and building payloads for rockets and balloons through our NASA-funded "Small Satellites for Secondary Students" program" said Cominsky.


Sonoma State's Early Academic Outreach program, led by Wandling, and SSU's Education and Public Outreach group, led by Cominsky, will work together to improve student performance and provide opportunities to students who attend six rural high schools in Mendocino County. Other important partners include the Mendocino County Office of Education and external evaluators at WestEd.


This development grant from the Department of Education is part of the nation's Investing in Innovation (i3) program, meant to create cutting-edge programs that will have an impact on improving student achievement and increasing college enrollment.


Sonoma State University earned one of the 18 available grants available to schools nationwide, beating out nearly 600 other applicants.


"We are really excited by the opportunity to work with under-served and high-needs school districts in Mendocino County to improve student performance in science and math, and to increase the number of Mendocino county students that are qualified to attend the CSU and UC systems" said Cominsky, the STEM Director for the project.


"I have long wanted to work with school districts in Mendocino County," said Susan Wandling, Project Director. "Partnering with Lynn Cominsky's group gives my team the chance to expand our college readiness efforts to rural areas and to gain the expertise needed to ensure student success in STEM," she said.


"We have met with principals and teachers at our partner schools and they are really eager to get started with the project" said Wandling. "One hurdle we still face is raising the rest of the matching funds required by the i3 program."


The project is looking for donations of computers, experimental sensors and expertise, especially in biology, as well as cash donations.


For more information about the Learning by Making project, please contact Susan Wandling, susan.wandling@sonoma.edu or Lynn Cominsky, lynnc@universe.sonoma.edu.


Also see: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/innovation/index.html



ABOVE: The "Learning by Making: STEM Success for Mendocino County"curriculum designed by Project Director Susan Wandling (right) and Professor Lynn Cominsky (left) teaches students to construct and design their own experiments in making scientific measurements that prove relevant to the future of the planet and economy.

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