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November 29, 2006

ULM receives grants for service-learning projects

The University of Louisiana System recently awarded the University of Louisiana at Monroe four service-learning grants that will fund innovative projects and significantly impact the local and state communities. The grants, which total almost $64,000, will be awarded this Friday at the ULS board meeting in Baton Rouge.

Of the grants, Wayne Brumfield, a member of the UL System service-learning council and ULM vice president for student affairs, said, "With service-learning as an important component of student development, I am pleased with the success of our faculty in securing grants that enhance teaching and the learning experience both in and outside of the classroom," he said. "These grant funds will be valuable in assisting faculty in creating a purposeful learning environment for our students."

• Rob Howard, geosciences, Anthony Feig, geosciences, and Michael Beutner, curriculum and instruction, were awarded a $30,000 grant that will fund the distribution of real-time hurricane data to two southern Louisiana high schools and to the Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness during a storm. This is the first year for the unique project entitled, "ULM Hurricane Evaluation at Landfall Project for Science ULM HELPS: Preparedness and Understanding."

This endeavor will educate the public on how scientists interpret, predict and respond to storm behavior, and it will provide support for emergency management officials who need to know where likely areas of damage might occur.

The grant will fund training for high school students and emergency planning officials on how to best use the real-time data. Funds will also cover travel costs for the HELPS team to conduct three hurricane data collection trips in 2007.

• Christopher Harris, English, and Barbara Michaelides, director of retention, secured a $14,968 grant that will fund the expansion of the existing FRYS 101 community-service project to include English 101 Learning Communities.

The English department and its First-Year Writing Program, the Clarke M. Williams Student Success Center and the Freshman Year Seminar, will collaborate to provide first-year students learning units on social and environmental issues pertaining to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, from wetland ecology to hurricane relief efforts to arts and music in New Orleans. During fall 2007, FRYS students will contact local relief agencies such as the Red Cross, the local food bank, and other United Way agencies, and assist them in gathering supplies.

This project, entitled “Establishing Community and University Connections to Enhance Disaster Response,” will help students realize they are part of the greater community and can contribute through their actions, as well as increase hurricane awareness and inspire students to partner with community groups, working within their majors.

• Phyllis Sanders, curriculum and instruction, and Bernadine Adams, nursing, were awarded a $11,086.92 grant for “Project Mad, Making a Difference,” a program designed to provide the Booker T. Community in Monroe with strategies and resources necessary for improving community.

This is the first year for Project Mad, which, with the help of community experts and agencies, will provide resources to schools located in low-income communities with increasing crime rates and low academic performance. Project Mad is unique because it allows community members to voice their problems and create their own solutions.

Students, faculty, and parents of students attending Lincoln Elementary Schools, Carroll Junior High School, and Carroll High School in the Monroe City School District will benefit from this new program.

Senior citizens of the John Breaux assisted Living Community, a health-care facility for senior citizens, located in the heart of these three schools, will also be impacted by the program.

• Lisa Guidry, Beth Ricks, curriculum & instruction, and Boyd Wolz Phillip Peyton and Jerri White, theatre and dance, secured a $7,875 grant that will fund "Children's Theatre: Providing Elementary Students Views Into Literature and Life."

This project will expose elementary school students to Children's Theatre, allowing them to experience art and to understand literary elements such as characterization, character motivation, plot, theme, etc.

An additional goal is to motivate the students. Unless students are exposed to the pleasures of literature and allowed to make connections between text and life, they may not engage in independent reading activities, said Guidry.

“We want our nation’s children not only to be able to read, but also to choose to read,” said Guidry.

This project is a collaborative effort between the departments of ULM's curriculum and instruction and theatre and dance and the Monroe City Schools System. Students and teachers from 10 elementary schools will participate in this service learning project.

Through discussions with elementary students, pre-service teachers majoring in elementary education will understand how and why students identify with various characters and plots. They will recognize how rich literacy experiences, like storytelling, affect a student's reading and writing skills.

The ULS Services grants are made possible by a $1.2 million grant awarded to the UL System by Learn & Serve America to increase the capacity of service-learning in its eight universities over a three-year period.

"Service-learning is lifelong learning," said UL System President Sally Clausen. "Studies show that when service is a component of classroom learning, students are more likely to stay in school, graduate and become engaged in their communities throughout their lives."

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