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Wofford receives $200,000 grant to partner with high schools

Arthur Vining Davis Foundations funds to be used for innovative materials
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2012-03-06

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Wofford has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to collaborate with high school teachers to produce innovative curricular materials for local classrooms.

The grant allows for the creation of High Impact Fellows, a cadre of Wofford students who will partner with a high school teacher and Wofford faculty member to develop lesson plans and ready-to-use classroom materials that reflect current research in various academic disciplines.

Each High Impact team will craft a curricular project to be carried out by the student in conjunction with a study abroad experience, capstone, thesis or independent research project. High Impact Fellows then will work with their mentors to translate their research into a classroom-ready product linked to state standards and tailored for use in a high school classroom. Once fellows finalize their materials, they will co-lead a professional development workshop for teachers with their mentors.

The project will involve six students in the first year, nine in the second year and 12 in the third year, with the corresponding number of faculty members. It is anticipated that the collaborators will be selected soon so that the program will begin in the 2012-13 academic year.

Dr. Laura Barbas-Rhoden, associate professor of foreign languages at Wofford, and Dr. Kaye Savage, associate professor and director of environmental studies, co-wrote the grant with the assistance of Dr. Ed Welchel, associate professor of education and educational outreach coordinator.

“With this project, we take what we do well at a liberal arts college – mentor students in intense, personalized learning experiences known as high impact practices – and turn our focus outward,” Barbas-Rhoden says. “Can we help our community with this kind of teaching? This grant lets us answer with an enthusiastic ‘yes.’ With it, we have an opportunity to connect our student enthusiasm and faculty expertise with what high school teachers do well — teach important subjects daily to broad populations in our county. If each group is learning from the other, we can really multiply the impact we all have.”

Savage adds, “Another impact that we anticipate is an increased interest in attending college among high school students who may be ‘on the fence’ about their future plans, as students are exposed to projects that have been developed and carried out by college students. In addition, some of our students may become interested in teaching careers as a result of the experience.”

Dr. David S. Wood, senior vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college, says, “We are delighted to receive support and recognition from the prestigious Arthur Vining Davis Foundations for a creative and high impact partnership with local school districts. The AVD Foundations are known for supporting innovation and potentially important collaborations such as the one envisioned by the grant project creators, Dr. Laura Barbas-Rhoden, Dr. Kaye Savage and Dr. Ed Welchel.”

The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations will fund the High Impact Fellows program for three years. The foundations’ website notes, “Trustees recognize the need to improve secondary education in this country. In keeping with the foundations’ historical emphasis on education, they believe that carefully targeted, thoughtful funding can contribute to strengthening education in grades 9-12. In order to concentrate efforts in this broad area, grants are made for innovative professional development programs that strengthen teachers and their teaching in grades 9-12.”

For more information on the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations grants, go to http://www.avdf.org/FoundationsPrograms/SecondaryEducation.aspx.