Institution awards grant to teacher

A goal is creation of a 'virtual' science fair that can be viewed on the Web.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown Early College is planning a science fair in February, but you won't have to go to a classroom to see it.
Thanks to an Unsung Heroes grant from ING Group, a global financial institution, the science fair will become a permanent fixture broadcast over the Internet.
The "virtual" science fair won't be limited to just Youngstown Early College entries, said Holly DeBernardo of Lordstown, the science teacher cited by ING for the Unsung Hero award.
Other early colleges across the country will be invited to participate and local public schools may be asked to get involved as well, she said.
ING has awarded $2,000 to DeBernardo, recognizing her as one of the nation's most innovative educators for proposing a plan to use the Internet to create an "Earth Changes" project.
Worked together
Her name may be on the award, but DeBernardo isn't taking sole credit for the plan.
She and Larry Johnson, dean of Youngstown Early College, said it was a team effort that developed out of staff meetings, and it could earn even more money from ING.
DeBernardo said the project is still in the running for one of the top three prizes -- an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 grant -- to be announced later this month.
The "Earth Changes" program won't only be implemented in DeBernardo's science class but also will be integrated across the Youngstown Early College curriculum, particularly in the areas of writing and math, Johnson said.
The science fair project will have student teams research the Web and establish online relationships with experts in their chosen topic to create a series of Web-based science fair projects.
Students will create actual projects and then video and photograph them, loading images onto a computer. Those images will become part of a virtual science fair.
Anyone with a computer will be able to view the fair on a Web site to be created for that purpose, DeBernardo said. Other schools will be able to put their own science fair entries on the site, expanding the learning process, she said.
Putting award to use
The $2,000 award will be used to buy a video camera, rewritable CDs, nonfiction library books on earth science and trifold project presentation boards.
Should the project win one of the top prizes, there could be money for Web cameras, digital cameras, laptop computers and more, DeBernardo said.
Youngstown Early College, now in its second year, is a partnership between the Youngstown city schools and Youngstown State University in which eligible high school students can earn up to 60 college credits by attending selected YSU classes while completing their high school graduation requirements.
Students must be invited to apply and enter the program as high school freshmen. They have to successfully take college English and math placement tests before they can begin taking YSU content courses.
The city school district and YSU pick up the tab for college tuition and books.
The Early College classes began Aug. 10, with 66 freshmen and 60 sophomores enrolled this year.
The ING Unsung Heroes awards program recognizes kindergarten through 12th-grade educators nationwide for their innovative teaching methods, creative educational projects and ability to make a positive influence on the children they teach. The program, marking its 10th year, has awarded more than $2.3 million to nearly 1,000 educators across the United States.

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