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$2 million grant will send students underwater

"Central Kitsap School District students will get some additional tools to help advance their education in science after the district received a generous grant recently.Students as young as 5 years old will experience more in-depth science education due to a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.The Naval Undersea Museum Foundation at Keyport, the Poulsbo Marine Science Center and superintendents from each of Kitsap’s five school districts met at a closed meeting Oct. 1 to consider how to spend the three-year grant that the foundation was awarded in mid-August.For the past two years, the Naval Undersea Museum Foundation and the Marine Science Center have pursued the development of the Marine Science Education Alliance, which is comprised of the museum, the Marine Science Center and the school districts. The alliance works to provide an interactive educational experience for students using exhibits in the museum and the science center.On behalf of the MSEA, the Naval Undersea Museum Foundation applied for the $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Education. The grant will help fund a three-year pilot program that will focus on physical marine science in Kitsap County schools. Foundation President Bruce Harlow said the grant provides MSEA with the necessary tools to help the school districts take advantage of the available marine science in the area.“This will help students do science out of the classroom and get them into the real world,” Harlow said.Central Kitsap School District Assistant Superintendent Steve Chappuis said the foundation sought out advice from the school districts before applying for the grant.“The level of input were getting is incredibly high,” Chappuis said about the Oct. 1 meeting.Chappuis said the Central Kitsap School District is improving its current science program in grades kindergarten through six. They currently have a science kit program where classrooms have giant tubs of materials to guide the curriculum. Chappuis said he hopes the changes in the science curriculum will combine the efforts of the Naval Undersea Museum Foundation and MSEA. He said they are just as focused on the implementation of the program as he is. Chappuis said the alliance intends to complement existing courses with concentration on marine biology. He also said the new curricula will keep a close eye on Essential Academic Learning Requirements mandated by the state.The program, in conjunction with the Marine Science Teacher Training Program, will also provide training for teachers during summers.“We want to help teachers teach kids those standards and the foundation understands that,” Chappuis said.The MSEA agreed to hire a science educator to coordinate excursions with the school district, along with contacting science teachers in the county for participation.Chappuis said he is unsure when the first series of field trips will begin in Central Kitsap schools but when it does he said it will “give kids a real-life science experience.”One excursion already in the planning stages is a one-day participatory learning “expedition,” during which students will participate in hands-on oceanographic experiments. They will work with interactive exhibits at the Naval Undersea Museum, participate in the research expedition onboard a chartered vessel and use the laboratories at the Marine Science Center to analyze their at-sea discoveries. Once the students return to their classrooms, they will prepare a report on what they observed.The foundation and school district officials will meet again next month. For more information on the Naval Undersea Museum Foundation or the MSEA call 697-1129."

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