A new science information project will benefit 1,700 gifted students in 19 Montgomery County schools. The project will involve the listing on microfiche of thousands of pieces of science-related information, which the third-through eight-grade students can draw on at will.
The project is being made possible by an $86,832 federal education grant channeled through the state of Maryland to the Montgomery County Public Schools, said John R. Pancella, who is heading the project.
"Let's say we've got a gifted student who is interested in astronomy," Pancella explained. "That means he needs to know not only about astronomy, but about photography, specialists in the area, available field trips, books, kits, things like that. So we list all of that information on microfiche cards, and make the cards available in the 19 schools participating in the program."
Most county schools already have microfiche reading machines, he said. Microfiche systems print vas amounts of information in tiny spaces on index-sized cards, and projectors then increase the type to readable size.
Participating schools have not yet been chosen. The program will become available for students in the fall, he said.
"The grant will enable us to buy a microfiche producing machine, so that we can work up our own programs," he said. Although the grant covers only one year, Pancella said he expects it will be renewed for two subsequent years as well.
"We will hire three specialists in the fields of science, evaluation, and media information to help pull all the information together, as well as a part-time secretary, " he said. "This program will not create another level of bureaucracy," he claimed.
The concept for the program was developed several years ago "because we realized that people don't know all of the unique resources we have in this area," he said. "We have museums, laboratories and special field trips which are not being utilized. Now we can bring knowledge of them all into one place," he said.
Students can participate in the project either through their regularly scheduled science classes, or as special projects after school hours, he said.
The microfiche project is part of a recent effort on the part of Montgomery County Public Schools to coordinate educational resources for gifted students, according to Elizabeth C. Wilson, coordinator of special projects for the school system.
"We have always had programs for students identified as gifted on intelligence tests, but until about one and a half years ago we never had any coordination between the projects," she said. "We eventually want to make them available to as many gifted students as possible," she added.
Other special programs cover reading, mathematics, local history and ecology, she said.