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An Old Dominion University project to help fourth- and fifth-graders learn math and science was among those receiving $1.3 million from the State Council on Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV).

Suzanne Doviak, a lecturer in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at Old Dominion and the leader of the project, received more than $59,000 for a project titled SMARTSTARS (Science, Math And Reading Together: Students Thinking As Research Scientists), which uses literature for grade-schoolers to help illustrate science and math concepts.

The Old Dominion grant was among 27 awards from the Eisenhower Grant Program worth $1.3 million for Virginia public and private colleges, universities and eligible non-profit organizations. The Eisenhower program supports projects during the 2002-2003 school year to improve the content knowledge and teaching skills of elementary and secondary public school teachers in math and science and prepares students for Virginia's revised Standards of Learning tests.

In a previous version of the program - which focused on space and ocean science -- a book about an airplane crash on a deserted island was used to study sea predators, desert adaptions, cacti, seafloor exploration and making compasses and water filters.

The book "Countdown," the story of a 14-year-old boy who rides on the Space Shuttle, generated discussion about Global Positioning System receivers, rounding, estimation, graphing, averaging, percents, geometry, basic calculations and problem solving.

"We try to find a few areas where concepts in the SOLs are related to the books," Doviak said. "If you get kids excited about the story, then they'll want to find out more."

This year, books will focus on weather and simple machines. Two one-week SMARTSTARS workshops from July 8-19 on the Old Dominion campus are open to teachers in Norfolk Public Schools, but may also be opened to teachers from other Hampton Roads schools.

Other books in the lesson plan include "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" by Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake, "Island of the Blue Dolphins" by Scott O'Dell and "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

This marks the 17th year that SCHEV, which administers the program for Virginia, has issued the grants. To choose the winners, SCHEV formed a panel to rank the grant proposals according to merit. Members included faculty, elementary, middle and secondary school teachers, curriculum specialists and SCHEV staff.

"School teachers in every classroom throughout Virginia are an essential building block for success because of the vital role they play in ensuring that our children acquire the knowledge and skills they need to succeed after high school, in college, at work and throughout their lives," said Carl N. Kelly, SCHEV's chairman.

To enroll in Smart Stars, contact Doviak at 683-3921 or sdoviak@odu.edu. More information is available at www.odu.edu/smartstars.

This article was posted on: May 17, 2002

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