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SF ROCKS a success

October 4, 2006

Photo of freshman Claire BaileyA program designed to interest urban youth in college and careers in earth and environmental sciences is producing results. Freshman Claire Bailey, and others in her high school class who are attending Bay Area colleges this fall, are proof that the SF State program -- SF ROCKS (Reaching Out to Communities and Kids with Science) -- is working. Bailey, whose interest in science was sparked when SF ROCKS visited her freshman science class at Phillip and Sala Burton High School, is pursuing a degree in geology.

"I really didn't know what to expect when I began the program," Bailey said. "But soon I was really excited about it. Our first week we were out in the field a lot and I had a lot of fun testing things and learning outdoors."

Under the tutelage of faculty and graduate students, Bailey and her classmates measured faults and collected online data to investigate the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes in the geysers region of Sonoma County. At the culmination of the program, the students prepared a poster on whether geothermal energy production can cause earthquakes. They presented their findings to thousands of professionals at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco.

SF ROCKS has also developed summer programs where students can continue geosciences research in the field and on campus. This summer Bailey assisted the program's faculty and graduate students with 12 students from Burton High who collected and analyzed water samples from watershed runoff in the Bayview-Hunters Point community. Bailey prepared and taught one of the lessons to the group, which included her younger sister Elizabeth who is also considering a career in science.

"We give these students the opportunity to learn about issues of environmental justice in their own communities, " said Professor of Geology Lisa White, who founded SF Rocks at SF State in 2001 and is now associate dean of graduate studies. "After watching students like Claire grow and confidently begin college, I'm convinced that the best way to interest students in college is to give them consistent and ongoing opportunities for mentoring by college students and faculty so they can see what it is like to major in a scientific field."

"It's exciting for the students to see how science is applied," said Jim Neiss, lecturer in geology and program manager of SF ROCKS. Neiss and White are SF State alumni and remain mentors to Bailey.

"Jim helped me get my books," Bailey said, acknowledging that a freshman's first trip to the college bookstore can be intimidating. "I'm glad I chose to come here to college because I am getting valuable support."

SF ROCKS is now looking at ways to secure new and ongoing funding, expand and collaborate with other institutions. The program, which began with funding from the National Science Foundation, has just received a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for participation in a local watershed education program. The program welcomes private donations, which can be made online at the SF Rocks Web site.

-- Denize Springer


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Last modified October 4, 2006 by University Communications