The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday December 8th

Sciences INSPIRE Student Initiative

Sophomore to place students in schools.

"I was expecting maybe 15, 20 e-mails from hopeful volunteers," he said. But Prakash, now a sophomore, said he has received more than 500 e-mail responses to join INSPIRE, his initiative to improve science education by pairing UNC students with area teachers.

In an e-mail sent to recruit volunteers, Prakash wrote that participants will enter the classroom weekly to "teach a science mini-lesson, help with field trips or assist the teacher in teaching science to kids."

The name INSPIRE is not an acronym but a reminder of the program's mission to "inspire students to want to do science," he said.

Prakash said the program, which includes elementary and high school classrooms, is designed to actively engage local students in a specific subject matter.

"Most students are learning facts from books, but they're not really seeing anything," he said. "You can't have a passion for something if you can't see it."

He emphasized that INSPIRE is different from other volunteer organizations because it allows participants to take initiative, whether conducting an experiment or planning a lesson for 25 students.

Jennifer Allred, a pre-kindergarten teacher at Carrboro Elementary School, hopes to use an INSPIRE volunteer to run her classroom's weekly science center. She said college-aged students can devise basic experiments and explain things simply enough for the youngest students.

"My students are 4 and 5 years old, but it's important for them to learn about basic processes and the environment to gain awareness," she said.

Although she has hosted student teachers and APPLES students during previous years, she has never had a volunteer who focused solely on science. "We have a great science program at Carrboro Elementary," she said. "This program will take that to another level."

University students participating in INSPIRE will receive one hour of course credit, but Prakash said he expects volunteers to spend two to three hours per week in the classroom.

Students will receive their assignments Thursday and then will set their own schedules. Participation will be verified through teacher evaluations, sign-in sheets and volunteer journal entries, he said.

Undergraduate and graduate students from all majors filled the 50 "course" spots on a first-come, first-served basis.

Prakash said the course credit is important during INSPIRE's first year because it will encourage volunteers to meet all program requirements.

Still, he hopes to run the program on a strictly volunteer basis in the future. He added that students reacted favorably to this potential change when he mentioned it at a recent interest meeting.

"That says something about our student body and the idea of community service here as a whole," he said. "I'm amazed."

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