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Office of Vice President and
Chief of Staff
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S.
Fort Myers, FL. 33965-6565

Phone: (239) 590-1006
Fax:     (239) 590-1066

Press Release


$800,000 Grant Partners FGCU, Florida Space Research Institute to Bring Better Math, Science Education to Local Schools

FORT MYERS, FL - The Whitaker Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology Education at Florida Gulf Coast University and the Florida Space Research Institute will collaborate on a state-funded pilot project called "Project LAUNCH" that will use NASA and other aerospace education resources to improve math and science education in eight counties.

Under an $824,941 Math-Science Partnership grant from the Florida Department of Education, FGCU and FSRI () will establish a regional network of university faculty and aerospace education mentors to provide standards-based resources, training and other support directly to K-12 teachers and classrooms.

With FGCU leading the design of the professional development component, teachers will learn how to enhance their instructional practices with research-based methods and resources.

"Many of the students sitting in our K-12 classrooms will become the engineers, technicians and scientists needed to support our nation's aerospace exploration and business programs," Lt. Gov. Toni Jennings said. "This project uses the excitement of space exploration not only as a stimulus for math and science education but also to encourage students to consider careers in the aerospace industry."

The project will use resources developed by NASA and partner organizations like the SpaceTEC center for aerospace technician training based at Brevard Community College, the Florida Hydrogen Partnership led by the University of Central Florida, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and FSRI's web-based Advanced Learning Environment.

"We will begin by hosting a two-week summer institute in July that will focus on the integration of science and math with a space theme," FGCU co-coordinator of Project LAUNCH Diane Schmidt said. "We will be hiring two full-time NASA educators to provide support to the schools in the fall, and we will conduct a second summer institute in 2005. We have numerous partners including NASA agencies, ERAU, and eight school districts, among others."

A reading component is also planned to promote space-oriented reading at all grade levels. In addition, a rigorous evaluation process will be used to measure the effectiveness of space-focused education materials.

Participating counties include Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Okeechobee, Osceola and Volusia. Based on the pilot project's success, FSRI and FGCU hope to leverage additional state and federal support to expand the mentor network for statewide coverage.

"NASA and other aerospace organizations have excellent education resources, but they don't have the distribution network to put them into the hands of enough teachers," FSRI Executive Director Sam Durrance said.

For more information, contact FGCU co-coordinators Schmidt at (239) 590-7741 or Donna Price Henry at (239) 590-7158, or FSRI director of Policy and Program Development Edward Ellegood at (321) 452-2653 ext. 204.

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