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November 16, 1998

School district honored for work with UCSC-based LASERS program

By Jennifer McNulty

The Pajaro Unified School District has received the prestigious Golden Bell Award from the California School Board Association in recognition of the district's participation in a language-acquisition program coordinated by UC Santa Cruz and the Life Lab Science Program.

The district was honored in the English Language Acquisition category for its work with the Language Acquisition in Science Education in Rural Schools, or LASERS, project, which is a five-year tricounty project designed to improve science education for K-6 bilingual students.

The Golden Bell Award will be presented in San Diego on December 5 during the association's annual education conference. The awards program, now in its 19th year, promotes excellence in education by recognizing outstanding programs in school districts and county offices of education throughout California. The awards recognize innovative or exemplary programs that have been developed and implemented by California teachers and administrators.

"Such an honor is uplifting, to say the least," said Ylda Nogueda, assistant superintendent for elementary instruction with Pajaro Unified School District.

Trish Stoddart, associate professor of education and principal investigator of LASERS, said the project "demonstrates the benefits of bringing together the expertise of university and K-12 faculty to develop collaborative programs that improve the teaching and learning of diverse students."

LASERS is supported by a $4.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation. Seven school districts across central California are participating in the project. Pajaro Unified was the host district for the 1998 LASERS summer school academy, and 13 of its 15 elementary schools are participating in the project.

The goal of LASERS is to develop a model of science education that reaches students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The project makes links between science taught in the classroom and the scientific ideas and language children have developed in their homes, communities, and local ecology.

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