Catawba County Schools is one of five state schools systems to receive an education grant valued at more than half a million dollars.
CCS received $261,037 for the 2010-11 fiscal year to promote science education in the classroom, and there are opportunities for that grant funding to continue during the next two years.
The CCS project is called Assessing Core-Content and Ensuring Success in Science, or ACCESS, is a partnership among the school system, North Carolina State University, the NCSU Science House, Appalachian State University and the North Carolina Center for Engineering Technologies.
"We're really trying to give a shot in the arm for science in elementary grades," said Carol Moore, CCS science curriculum specialist.
The ACCESS project focuses on the physical-science strand for teachers in kindergarten through fifth grade. The project involves 150 teachers, 30 teacher leaders and 120 professional learning community members, or PLCs.
Those members will receive 80 hours of professional development during the project's duration.
Most elementary school teachers have limited training in sciences, and Moore said the grant is designed to enhance teachers' content knowledge in science.
When teachers better understand the subject matter, then it's easier for them to effectively teach their students.
The Math and Science Partnerships program is intended to increase the academic achievement of students in mathematics and science through educating and informing teachers, according to the United States Department of Education.
The formula grant is awarded to school systems throughout the U.S. based on need, student population and poverty rates.
CCS's MSP grant is expected to be renewed for three years, based on successful completion of grant requirements and established goals.
Funding for the grant's third year, however, is uncertain and contingent on money issued from the federal government.
The system expects to receive an additional $250,000 for the second year, which brings the grant's total value to more than $500,000.
The ACCESS program will focus on training teachers in physics, which Moore said is the basis of many other science-related subjects and careers.
"Physics are where all your stem careers come from," she said. "It's not something to be scared of."
Other elements of the ACCESS project include:
-Development of lead science teachers in each elementary school,
-Administration training for lead teachers and the faculty members they advise,
-Field testing activities with PLCs to discover the best teaching methods.
CCS will partner with ASU, NCSU and the Center for Engineering Technologies to utilize those organizations' facilities, resources and faculty members.
This unique partnership was one of the reasons CCS received the grant funding.
"They're seeing we're using the community," Moore said. "They're seeing we're using the resources."
An estimated $5 million was distributed to North Carolina schools in 2010 for the MSP grant program.
The MSP grant is one of many initiatives at CCS designed to promote science in the classroom. Teachers met Friday at the CCS annex building in Newton for training in curriculum about agriculture in the classroom.
The Catawba County Farm Bureau provided each teacher present with a free resource kit designed to teach children in kindergarten through eighth grade about where food comes from.
"If we're using science as the hook, we can do reading, math, social studies," Moore said. "We can do all of it."