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VIPS project tests adults' skills with battery, light bulb

June 02, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

Using only a battery, light bulb and a piece of wire, scientists, law enforcement investigators and Border Patrol agents concentrated as they tried to make the bulb light up.

These community members were just a few of the various organizations represented at a Valle Imperial Project in Science breakfast meeting Friday at Sunflower Elementary School in El Centro.

The breakfast meeting was to inform community members about the program and to get them involved in the program.

Michael Klentschy, superintendent of the El Centro Elementary School District and the VIPS principal investigator, explained the history of VIPS, which has been used in the Valley for the last five years.

"Our students are underrepresented in science/math in terms of careers," said Klentschy of why the district decided to focus on these areas.

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He said the VIPS program was developed in partnership with the California Institute of Technology and is partners with the Smithsonian Institute and the National Science Resource Center.

Beginning in kindergarten and going through eighth grade, students learn skills in observation, questioning, experimentation and problem-solving through scientific topics such as sunshine and shadows, sound, bones and skeletons, living things and solar energy.

All students are required to keep notebooks of their observations and experiments as part of the program.

Klentschy explained since being involved in this program, students' scores on the SAT 9 have improved in all academic areas.

"The longer they're in the program, the better their scores are," said Klentschy.

A nationally recognized program, VIPS is being used as model for the nation.

"If you go to Rhode Island, they know about El Centro because of this program. … If you go to Boston … if you go to Walla Walla, Wash., they know about El Centro because of this program," said Elizabeth Molina de la Torre, a VIPS coordinator.

Klentschy added Mexico has even adopted various parts of the VIPS program for its national science model.

Molina de la Torre explained the experiment with the light bulb and battery done by the assembled community members is one of many experiments done by fifth-graders in the VIPS program.

George Chavez, a fire inspector for the Calexico Fire Department, said he had heard about VIPS before coming to the meeting, but he came to "touch base and find out more."

He said while the fire department does fire safety presentations in the classroom, they can get involved with VIPS with other presentations.

"We're involved with water and weights and measures and the pressure of water needed to put out flames," said Chavez of an example of what he could teach.

Chavez added he would like to attend the training sessions to learn more about the program and how he can get involved.

"It was very informative, and very interesting," said Chavez.

Juan Valenzuela, owner of El Centro Furniture, was invited to the meeting by his sister, a VIPS resource teacher.

"I learned a lot today," said Valenzuela.

"I found it to be very productive for the children," he added.

Valenzuela said ways he plans to get involved are through "volunteering. Just time and effort. Whatever they would need in terms of help."

Other community members seemed eager to get involved.

Public health nurses Collene Mars and Genean Jorgenson said neither knew much about the VIPS program prior to the meeting.

"I learned a lot today," said Jorgenson, whose daughter-in-law is a resource teacher with the program.

"If we have something to offer, then we can have someone go out and do that," said Mars of the health department's involvement.

A Border Patrol agent, who wished to remain unnamed, said the Border Patrol could correlate what it does by tailoring its classroom presentations to the science unit being studied.

"How heat affects the human body," she cited as an example.

"I didn't know about it (before the meeting), but it's an absolutely phenomenal program for the kids in the Imperial Valley," said the agent.

"I wish I would have had it when I was growing up….it's a wonderful program," she added.

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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