Maryville has received an $85,000 Boeing grant for a new program called STEM Sprouts, a partnership between Maryville University and the School for Early Childhood Education in the Ritenour school district.
This marks the second consecutive grant received from Boeing to help prepare teachers in underserved schools to teach STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills in their classrooms. Last year, Maryville received a $70,000 grant to establish a STEM certificate program.
“Boeing’s continued commitment in support of innovative STEM programs like STEM Sprouts will have a powerful impact on the future of the St. Louis community,” says Steve Coxon, PhD, associate professor in Maryville’s School of Education and director of programs in gifted education.
The current grant will address the problem that occurs when teachers of young students, particularly in high poverty districts, lack the necessary skills to prepare their students to succeed in STEM subjects. This in turn leads to decreased ability and interest in STEM as students later progress through middle school and high school.
“Coding is the language of the future. Preschool students can learn to program a new robotics platform by organizing wooden blocks with pictures and simple words into a code that the robot scans in and then performs according to the child’s code,” Coxon says. “Just as young children are more facile with learning foreign languages, we expect the same is true with coding.”
By increasing teacher readiness to implement STEM methods and materials, the program will likely serve more than a thousand children over five years.
STEM Sprouts will provide extensive professional development and materials in STEM for up to 14 teachers in the Ritenour School for Early Childhood Education, with additional coaching provided on-site in pre-school classrooms. Each year, these teachers serve more than 200 students, ages 3-5. Some educators will also choose to participate in Maryville’s 135-hour STEM certificate program, which was launched in 2015 through the previous grant from Boeing.
Students in the classroom will benefit from the STEM Sprouts program by exploring materials provided in the classroom, like iPads for student-created videos, outdoor tools for gardening and life sciences, robotics, blocks, LEGOs and more. Students will also take part in field experiences at locations in the community, such as the Science Center and the Magic House.
Results of this program will be shared at educational conferences and workshops nationwide, providing opportunities for other schools and districts to use it as a model. The potential impact of this grant is significant. By increasing teacher readiness to implement STEM methods and materials, the program will likely serve more than a thousand children over five years.