Einstein Project boosts science in Danville schools

DANVILLE — When Danville High School science teacher Christopher Dryer applied for a classroom project grant from the Danville Public School Foundation for a little more than $8,000, he didn't realize his request would ultimately yield the school's science department $39,000 in new state-of-the-art equipment through a multi-donor effort dubbed the Einstein Project.

On Tuesday evening, students showed school officials, foundation members and donors the equipment, including Vernier LabQuest interfaces, and how they have been using them in their science classrooms.

"They really engage the students," Bob Richard, the foundation's executive director, said of the technology, which they will be able to use in all kinds of applications.

In addition to the Vernier LabQuest interfaces and sensors/probes for classroom and field experiments, the science department was able to purchase 13 laptops, 12 Bunsen burners, six hot plates/stirrer sets and 30 reusable dissecting kits, which will be used in biology, physics, chemistry and life science classes.

The Einstein Project was made possible through the cooperation of the foundation, school district, University of Illinois and a number of community partners, Richard said. He began putting it together after receiving Dryer's application, which would buy a few pieces of science equipment but exceeded the amount the foundation typically awarded for a classroom project grant.

After learning of other needs in the science department from Dryer and teachers Beth Chamberlain and Kathy Hafner, the science division heads, Richard began searching for other grants that could supplement the foundation's funding to provide a more extensive equipment upgrade that could expose students to the latest learning technology.

The teachers explained how the equipment would allow students to work in small groups to facilitate and foster the collaboration that is typical of scientists working in the real world, focusing on relevant problem-solving scientific methods, with a goal of encouraging students to pursue careers in the STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — fields.

Richard said Dryer already contacted the Sargeant-Welch Co., which agreed to provide a 20 percent matching grant for any equipment that was purchased. The foundation successfully submitted a grant application to the Iroquois Federal Foundation and was awarded a $10,000 grant for the project.

Richard said Danville residents David and Sandi Wood also made a donation, and the school district agreed to buy the laptops. The foundation, using funds from its 365 Club donations, covered the remaining costs.

In addition, the EnList Project from the UI agreed to cover the cost of training teachers on the new equipment, as well as the cost of hiring substitutes while two teachers train in Indianapolis.

"The collaboration demonstrated during this project was amazing," Richard said, adding the goal of the foundation and its donors is to help enhance learning opportunities for students. "The Einstein Project has done exactly that. We are very appreciative to everyone who has made this project possible."

For more information on the foundation, call 444-1044 or go to http://www.dpsf.org.

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