Notre Dame Connects with Area Schools

Author: Gene Stowe, South Bend Tribune

By Gene Stowe, South Bend Tribune - March 4, 2012

SOUTH BEND -- Collaboration between the University of Notre Dame and local public schools is accelerating across a broad range, from professional development to classroom and curriculum support.

The fifth Notre Dame extended Research Community (NDeRC) Collaborating for Education and Research Forum showcased a set of available resources to help teachers enhance STEM education and more.

Jay Brockman, associate dean in the College of Engineering, said the university-community connection become more vital as funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation demand more evidence of direct benefit for K-12 students from grant-funded programs.

"We increasingly need to demonstrate that we are having an impact," he told the teachers. "We really need to partner with you."

Jay Caponigro, Notre Dame's director of community engagement, told participants that Notre Dame has recently compiled a database of resources, from individual graduate students to large programs, and an online listing of events, edconnex in the Public Affairs site, available through the year.

"We have a lot of resources to leverage," said Caponigro, a member of the South Bend Community Schools Corp. board.

Caponigro also said that an Education Collaborative Council (ECC) "think tank" of faculty and staff from five universities and colleges with principals from South Bend schools is exploring more opportunities for collaboration.

Jackie Rucker of Notre Dame's Community Relations said that a project with Edison Intermediate Center, begun in 2006 to encourage young students to consider college, has expanded to include Jefferson Intermediate Center as well as Ivy Tech Community College, Bethel College and Indiana University South Bend.

Dan Walsh, a 1984 Notre Dame graduate and onetime Navy ROTC instructor who started teaching this year at Riley High School, said his own experience can encourage his students to consider college.

"I think it's a sales job," he said. "Getting them here on campus is a big thing. A lot of the kids don't think they have the resources to leverage college. As a first-born college graduate myself, and a Notre Dame grad, having gone through here on an ROTC scholarship, I can give them examples of how I achieved despite poverty myself."

Aaron McNeely, a teacher in Bremen who has been involved with QuarkNet for seven years, said the opportunity to do hands-on science makes him more effective in the classroom.

"As a teacher, I get to do different things throughout the year," he said. "I help to get other teachers get involved in astronomy or whatever science they enjoy. I get to be involved in science in a very tangible manager. It's been a helpful thing for me as a teacher."