Six local schools will be splitting a $3 million federal grant to start high-tech science, engineering and math programs intended to increase student interest in these fields.
Despite the recession, these fields remain in high demand and are high-paying. But American employers struggle to fill positions for engineers and skilled tradesman with U.S. workers. Simply put, students are shying away from the schooling required, according to a recent report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
That holds true in the Clark County School District, Superintendent Dwight Jones said.
“There is a local, state and national need for a trained workforce in the STEM area,” said Jones, using an acronym for the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
The district could have used the money – from the U.S. Department of Education’s $140 million Investing in Innovation competition – for many purposes but chose STEM. And Clark County is one of only two public school districts to receive a piece of the pie. The other is Rhode Island’s Central Falls School District, which serves 2,900 students.
The 18 other grant winners are colleges and education groups, such as the California Association for Bilingual Education. In Clark County, the money will be used over three years, starting in August 2013. It will benefit 5,600 students – a small portion of the district’s 311,000 students – at Garside, Gibson, Findlay and Johnston middle schools, with Mojave and Western high schools. The schools were chosen because of their low participation rates in science and math.
The cost per student is $209 the first year, $150 the second year and $162 the last year with the number of participants slightly increasing to 5,780 students after the first year.
To pique students’ interest, their assignments will rely on hands-on, real- world projects, according to the district’s grant application.
In sixth grade, students will start to use 3-D modeling software and will continue to do the same in seventh grade, also learning about “green architecture.” They will be introduced to architectural plans, construction styles, sustainability and building materials.
Eighth-grade students will be introduced to automation and robotics, flight and space, and the “magic of electrons.”
To see the applicability of these skills, 640 students per year will work with STEM professionals after school once a week, culminating in a field trip. Because of the student limitation, schools will also have STEM clubs and 10-day summer camps with professionals.
The high schools then will offer two programs: Pathway to Engineering and Biomedical Science. In the second and third years of the grant program, high school students will shadow professionals and intern with them.
Many of these professionals will be donating money and time.
To receive the grant, the district had to first raise $450,000 from the community, and did so with the help of the Cleveland Clinic; TJK Consulting engineers; Professional Design Associates; DCC Architects and more.
“Our community has stepped up and invested in our kids,” Jones said.
While the district will receive $3 million, other grant recipients will be handed up to $15 million because they have been awarded “validation grants,” meaning their programs have “evidence of effectiveness.”
Clark County’s award, on the other hand, is a “development grant to support promising but relatively untested projects with high potential,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
“These grantees have innovative ideas to accelerate student achievement and address some of our biggest challenges in education,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at tmilliard@review journal.com or 702-383-0279.