McCall Outdoor Science School Helps Idaho Low-income Youth Earn Higher Test Scores

Tuesday, February 22 2011

MCCALL, Idaho – A new $10,000 grant from The Lightfoot Foundation will support the University of Idaho McCall Outdoor Science School (MOSS) Southwest Idaho Learning Initiative, an academic enrichment program that targets Idaho’s low-income youth in fifth through twelfth grades.

“We are always pleased to support those organizations who have dedicated themselves to achieve the same goals as The Lightfoot Foundation,” said Michael Sullivan, U.S. Bank trustee. “We hope with our financial assistance MOSS will be able to make a difference.”

“Over the past several years, it has become harder for Title I schools to attend our programs,” said Greg Fizzell, program director at MOSS. “Key barriers include lack of school funding, program cuts, rising travel costs and difficulty for parent chaperones to take time off work.”

With the help of this and other grants, approximately 350 students from 12 Southwest Idaho Title I schools will benefit from participating in MOSS’ five-day residential programs that focus on inquiry learning.

Past analysis has revealed that former MOSS students demonstrated a 17 percent increase on post- assessment that includes commonly asked questions on standardized science achievement tests.

“Current Idaho Standard Achievement Test data show low-income students typically score lower on state science achievement tests,” said Fizzell. “That is the science driving our efforts to engage with these schools and make a difference for these students who are at a critical juncture in their cognitive development.”

Fizzell’s rationale also is supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, which reports striking growth spurts can be seen from ages six to 13 in areas connecting brain regions specialized for language and understanding spatial relations. NIMH research teams also have proven through magnetic resonance imaging that the teen brain is not a finished product, but a work in progress. Therefore, kids who “exercise” their brains by learning to order their thoughts, understand abstract concepts and control their impulses are laying the neural foundations that will serve them for the rest of their lives.

Fizzell expects the Southwest Idaho Learning Initiative will result in students’ increased ability to demonstrate higher order operations such as problem solving, critical thinking and collaboration skills.
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About the University of Idaho

Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s land-grant institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year. The University of Idaho is classified by the prestigious Carnegie Foundation as high research activity. The student population of 12,000 includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars, who select from more than 130 degree options in the colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences; Art and Architecture; Business and Economics; Education; Engineering; Law; Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Natural Resources; and Science. The university also is charged with the statewide mission for medical education through the WWAMI program. The university combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities and focuses on helping students to succeed and become leaders. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For more information, visit