Focusing on science

By for CAES News

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

Project FOCUS is a three-hour service learning course that is offered every semester at the University of Georgia. It aims to foster the community’s understanding of science, and it has a secondary bonus of helping UGA students realize the importance of teaching.

“There really is no profession that we as upcoming society will enter into that will not involve teaching in some way – as a boss, a team leader, a doctor, a professor, a therapist,” Project FOCUS student Becky Cafiero said. Cafiero, from Savannah, is double-majoring in biology and psychology and has been accepted to the Medical College of Georgia for 2006’s fall semester.

David Knauft, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences professor, is now accepting Project FOCUS students for the spring 2006 semester. Project FOCUS students must have 12 hours of science credits and at least a 2.5 GPA. They must also devote a minimum of six hours per week to teaching activities – three hours in the classroom and three hours towards planning, preparing, commuting and facilitating. This includes the hour- long reflection session with other Project FOCUS students.

“Seeing the children’s excitement to learn is refreshing, and knowing that I am a part of their future is an unparalleled [aspect of the program],” said Becky Rahn, a junior psychology major from Augusta who plans to become a physician’s assistant. “Also, personally, the interactions with the students that I have every week provide me with hands-on experience related to topics that I learn in other classes.”

The program is also good for students considering teaching as a career because it gives undergraduates time in the classroom as sophomores or juniors. Usually, most education students don’t have this opportunity until they are seniors and about to start student teaching.

“One thing we didn’t anticipate was that about 25 percent of our Project FOCUS students have decided that they want to go into teaching,” Knauft said. “Children are naturally curious about the world around them. They’re natural scientists, and it’s fun being able to cultivate that interest in science.”

For more information, contact Knauft at (706) 542-2471 or or Anna Scott at 706-542-2108 or

Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.