Policy & Funding
Grants Promote Making as Part of STEM
- By Dian Schaffhauser
A multimillion-dollar state grant program has delivered grants to 765 schools throughout Pennsylvania, specifically intended to expand STEM education and teacher training. The funding is part of Gov. Tom Wolf's PAsmart initiative, which will provide $20 million for computer science and STEM education in elementary, middle and high schools, and professional development for educators.
For example, Maplewood Elementary in Penncrest School District will be using its $35,000 grant to convert a former home economics classroom into a makerspace. According to local reporting, the money will buy 3D printers, new computers and software where students will be able to "code, create, design and tinker." The space will also include a green screen for video work and a coding station. Another part of the room will allow the kids to take donated items apart to learn how they work or to make something new.
The Spring Cove School District received the maximum award of $500,000 to set up a Project Lead the Way program in its schools. That will include acquiring Chromebooks in K-5, adding training and supplies for CS and maker activities in middle school and CompTIA certification training in the high school.
The grants have specifically targeted K-12 educators who have "very limited or no experience in computer science" — and especially for bringing learning opportunities to under-represented students in K-8. Schools applied for the grant in an application process that was designed to be finished in less than 30 minutes. Those who received the funding were expected to send a team of at least four teachers for state-approved professional development to learn CS standards and principles appropriate to their grade levels.
A phase 2 of the program will allow schools to request additional funding in time for teachers to be prepared for the 2019-2020 school year.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.