Sonoma State students improve Mendocino county education

Two education groups at Sonoma State were awarded a $3 million grant that they hope to use toward improving the engineering and science programs for Mendocino County high schools. Project Director Susan Wandling designed one of the groups, “Learning by Making: STEM Success for Mendocino County.” 

“We were shocked and thrilled to secure this grant, knowing the competition was pretty fierce.  It’s one of the most coveted Department of Education grants,” said Wandling. “As Director of Academic Talent Search, I wanted to expand our success of preparing young high-need students for enrollment in college, and was looking for a way to reach out to Mendocino County. Although one of the competitive priorities was to serve rural communities, our proposal was the only one selected in that category.  Our first professional development sessions with those fired-up teachers will be in Ukiah in June.”

Lynn Cominsky, a Sonoma State professor in physics and astronomy, led the other education group.

“I have dedicated my career to trying to improve science education, especially hands on work, because I have found that is a way to reach students who would otherwise be averse to doing things that involve math,” said Cominsky. “The Mendocino schools offer a great opportunity to try out some of these ideas, including using the internet to connect together students working in widely separated districts in rural areas.” 

The program focuses on learning how to write computer programs using the Logo programming language. They are trying to increase the quality of future engineers and scientists.

Applications closed for these grants on July 2, 2013, so there was a long wait to find out if one has been awarded the grant. Both groups are ready for the project to begin. They have gone to the participating Mendocino County high schools and spoken to principals and faculty. The project will begin when they are able to raise the matching funds that are needed to run an Investing in Innovation program. The project is seeking donations in the forms of money, computers, experimental sensors or expertise.

“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,” said Cominsky, “and to increase the number of Mendocino county students that are qualified to attend the CSU and UC systems.”

This is said to be a great achievement for Sonoma State, and all of the participants involved. Only 18 development proposals were selected out of 600 applications for Investing in Innovation funds. These funds are given to local educational agencies and non-profit organizations. They are then used to improve student achievement and growth. They also hope to decrease dropout rates, increase high school and college graduation rates as well as college enrollment. The group hopes that these grants will make a significant difference in local high school science and engineering programs.