BellSouth aids MSU-Smithsonian partnership

A contribution from the BellSouth Foundation to a Mississippi State University-Smithsonian Institution partnership is helping make scientific resources available to schoolchildren in a three-state area.

In a recent Washington ceremony, Mississippi BellSouth President J. Kelly Allgood presented a $250,000 check to Mississippi State President Donald Zacharias and Robert W. Fri, director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

The university and the natural history museum are collaborators in the Natural Partners Initiative, an education enhancement program begun earlier this year. Through telecommunications technology, the initiative provides middle school-age children access to the collections and resources of the natural history museum.

It is part of a larger effort called the Tri-State Network Demonstration Project, designed to enhance economic development and improve education within Northeast Mississippi, Northwest Alabama and South Central Tennessee.

The BellSouth gift will enhance the existing telecommunications infrastructure and two-way videoconferencing capabilities, said R. Dan Brook of Mississippi State, director of the project.

"Through electronic classrooms and Internet access, students are linked with the Smithsonian Institution and its researchers," the professor of technology and education said. "The project allows teachers to help unfold the mysteries of the natural world for students who might not otherwise visit the National Museum of Natural History."

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), on hand for the Washington ceremony, said the project "is a good example of the Partners program and technology coming together for education."