October 23, 2007

C.U. Gives Grants to Local K-12 Teachers

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Some more Europe in our own upstate backyard. That’s what the Cornell Institute for European Studies hopes to see with its K-12 Educator Grant awards, which it presented last month, for the fourth year in a row, to five local K-12 teachers who developed curriculum units of European concentrations.
This year’s winners were: Lynn Brosch from the R. J. McNulty Academy in Montgomery County, Susan Child-Dauphin from G. Ray Bodley High School in Onondaga County, Dorothy Fulk from Candor High School in Tioga County, Kelly Horrocks from DeWitt Middle School in Tompkins County and Robin Trapani from Frewsburg Central Schools in Chautauqua County. The IES will later post their curriculum units on its website to help other teachers bulk up their Europe-related curricula.
Each $1,000 grant helped compensate for the teacher’s time, research and educational materials for the unit, in addition to $125 for travel expenses. Grant funding for the four regular grants came from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Resource Centers. This year’s fifth grant came from another grant from the European Union Commission as part of its “Getting to Know Europe” competition celebrating the E.U.’s 50th anniversary.
“Mostly on the K-12 level there’s no such thing as a European studies course. We’re talking about a social studies class or a history class that is much more general than the sorts of things you would have at Cornell; so the idea is that you would take a social studies class or a world problems class, and you would add content to it specifically focused on Europe,” said Prof. Sydney Van Morgan, sociology, associate director of the Institute for European Studies.
Van Morgan and Catherine Perkins, the IES Outreach Coordinator, selected the five winning grants from among 18 proposals, with the following criteria in mind:
“We want to get a diversity of topics. We’re looking at the seriousness of the project. We’re looking at also how modular the project is in terms of ‘Is this a discrete package of information that can be taken from our website and used in a variety of different courses?’” Van Morgan said.
One of the recipients, Kelly Horrocks, created a three-week curriculum unit focusing on the European Union, which involves a student simulation of the European Council.
“The kids would choose a country and research it and find out what the requirements are to get into the E.U. and then they would have to prepare a presentation for other students pretending to be the E.U. Council and say, ‘This is why my country should be in the E.U,’ [so] they had to research geography, history, society and economy,” Horrocks said.
Thus far, Horrocks has only seen positive reactions to the unit.
“The students especially liked the simulation part and being able to pick a country they didn’t know anything about. It [also] helps the kids’ oral and presentation skills and it’s tied with the state standards for research, writing, language arts and social studies,” she said. The unit received praise from Horrocks’s colleagues as well.
“I gave a Powerpoint presentation to my department to show them what it [the unit] looked like and to introduce it to them so they know it’s there and can use it. It went over quite well. They thought it was quite good,” she said.
Another grant recipient, Susan Child-Dauphin, had developed a curriculum concerning the 1980s conflicts in the Balkans, which she selected not only for student education but also her own.
“[I chose the Balkan struggles] because I knew the least about it, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to throw myself into an area where I still felt a little weak,” said Child-Dauphin.
According to Child-Dauphin, such grants are unfortunately not that common among primary and secondary school educators, but not necessarily for a lack of similar grant programs.
“For the most part, we try to get through the day. It is really busy here. Between grading the papers and doing the paperwork and taking care of parents and students, I think that most of my colleagues feel like looking for grant applications would be just one more thing. We don’t always get to things like we wish we could,” Child-Dauphin said.
However, these K-12 Educator Grants have somewhat addressed these time issues that often afflict teachers.
“One of the reasons that I applied for the grant is that there’s not a huge involvement in applying for it. [Cornell] make[s] it pretty user-friendly. There’s not a whole bunch of forms to fill out. It’s not like you have to come for an interview or anything. Not only is it easy to apply, but you also can just use your own lessons for your own classroom and build on it,” Horrocks said.
The educator grants, as part of Cornell’s long tradition of outreach, also extend the relationships between primary and secondary schools and the universities.
“I’m hoping to have more opportunities to collaborate with my colleagues and especially my colleagues at the college level. I think that was the best thing about the grant: it gave me the opportunity to meet some people that were teaching at the college level and talk about the connections between high school and college,” Child-Dauphin said.