Observer Reporter Wheeling County Greene County Mon Valley | October 4, 2018 |
From left, West Greene School District’s Jed Hamberger, K-12 academic director; Melissa Ullom, high school English teacher; and Eric Armstrong, high school physics teacher, showcase education programs funded by Innovation Grants. With its grant, West Greene purchased a milling machine that’s used to build equipment in the high school robotics program. They also purchased a drone for the engineering and Earth science programs.
From robotics and coding to makerspaces and sustainable gardening, students from 26 Southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia classrooms showcased their projects Tuesday during the inaugural Innovation Grants Showcase. The program, held at West Virginia University’s Erickson Alumni Center, brought together students, teachers, and administrators, to collaborate on unique approaches to science, technology, engineering and math-related curriculum.
Each project displayed received Innovation Grant funding – a program supported by Chevron and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation to encourage school districts, primarily in rural communities, to develop engaging curriculum with innovation and design serving as the driving force behind science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics education.
“Chevron remains dedicated to
improving the communities in which we’re privileged to work, and in today’s world, STEM-related knowledge and skills are keys to success in any career path,” said Stacey Olson, president of Chevron Appalachia. “Through our partnership with Benedum, we are proud to provide this terrific opportunity for students to explore science, math and technology in a creative way, that, hopefully, sparks an interest for a future career.”
In 2017 and 2018, Chevron and the Benedum Foundation, awarded $370,000 in Innovation Grants to classrooms across the region.
“Young people have a bright future in STEM fields, but we have to rigorously support them to engage, gain knowledge and develop skills. At the Benedum Foundation, one of our goals is to meet the needs of a rising workforce,” said James Denova, vice president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation. “Our hope is that through hands-on learning in the classroom, students will foster that passion needed to help counter our nation’s growing skills gap.”
For schools in the Intermediate Unit 1, which serves Fayette, Green and Washington Counties, and across north central West Virginia, the grants have enabled teachers to expand curriculum beyond the textbook and provide students with hands-on learning opportunities.
“A strong foundation of STEM-related skills gives our students a head start when preparing for college or the workforce,” said Don Martin, assistant executive director of IU1. “We know that employers are looking for those key science, technology, and math fundamentals and these grants help us develop creative and outside-the-classroom approaches to curriculum.”
The grant funding supported a project of Darren Schaffer, a technology education teacher at Avella Junior-Senior High School, to transform the school’s Technology Education space into an advanced FabLab.
“Avella’s goal will be to continue growing our offerings in STEAM education for our students. We not only want to grow these offerings at our secondary, but very importantly at our elementary center,” Schaffer said. “Students are drawn to hands-on, meaningful, real world projects. When we allow students the autonomy to create from their own ideas, the results are amazing. We will continue to support these offerings and provide ongoing professional development to our educators.”
Innovation Grants are part of the Appalachia Partnership Initiative, a multi-year collaborative established with an initial $20 million commitment from Chevron that seeks to strengthen economic and education environments by supporting long-term STEM and technical training programs.