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Feb. 5, 2004

ULM Awarded 1.2 Million Dollar Grant to Work With Region's Schools

ULM has been awarded a $1.2 Million NSF Grant for the Delta Agriculture Middle School Applied Life Sciences (DAMSALS2) Project. The project will serve 7th through 12th grade teachers and students in twelve parishes throughout northeast Louisiana by providing means for the teachers and students to learn about and use information technologies in addressing agriculture related science concepts.

"The project's objectives are to enhance the information technology skills of science teachers and students, increase awareness of the use of information technology in agriculture related sciences, and increase the science content knowledge of teachers and students," said Patty Watts, designer and director of the DAMSALS ITEST (Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers) Project. She is also the principal investigator on the project, and is currently serving as Director of the Delta Regional Educators' Academy at ULM. Watts has thirteen years of experience directing successful professional development projects through the Louisiana Systemic Initiatives Program and Delta Rural Systemic Initiative.

Watts also noted that Louisiana has made great strides in bringing technology into classrooms in recent years by reducing its ratio of students per computer from 88:1 in 1996 to 5.6:1 in 2001. "Even though the communities served by the project are poor and traditionally underserved, the region has a student per computer ratio almost equal to the state," Watts added. However, she pointed out, the technology is still not being used to its potential. The National Center for Educational Statistics reports show that the availability of technology does not ensure its use and that it is used more often in schools with small minority populations and low levels of poverty.

One of the co-principal investigators on the grant is Dr. Eric Pani, Associate Dean of Arts and Sciences at ULM. Pani is a meteorologist and has extensive experience in professional development of science teachers through LaSIP and Delta RSI sponsored projects.

"There was very stiff competition for this grant and ULM received a larger award than any other institution. There were 126 proposals and only 12 were funded. The other awardees are a very impressive group including the Lawrence Hall of Science at Berkeley, the Fort Worth Museum of Natural History, TERC from Cambridge Mass, UCLA, and similar organizations. These institutions are the leaders in science curriculum development in the nation. It is really a feather in our cap to be included in such company," Pani said.

The DAMSALS2 ITEST grant from NSF provides an opportunity for local teachers to learn new ways to use technology in the teaching of science. The program is specially designed to use our local agricultural environment as the source of scientific investigations. That will help to motivate students to learn science while helping them realize what technology skills will be needed to find jobs in our local economy.

The new program is set to run for three years. Each year there will be a summer institute for teachers, summer camps for students, and academic year follow-up activities. The participants will be students from the twelve rural school systems in northeast Louisiana. The first year will be for grades 7 and 8, the second year will be for grades 8 and 9, and the third year will be for grades 9 through 12.

Involved in the grant from ULM are Dr. Charlotte Owens, assistant professor of computer science; Dr. Mike Camille, associate professor of geosciences; Dr. Sean Chenoweth, assistant professor of geography; Dr. Paul Croft, associate professor of geosciences; and Dr. Willy Hoefler, professor of agriculture. Barbara Armfield is the Site Coordinator of the Delta Regional Educators' Academy.

For more information and to apply online visit

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