July 2, 2012 | Education
Willis Junior High Receives STEM Grant from Verizon Foundation
The Verizon Foundation has a vested interest in training future engineers. Our Verizon Innovative Learning School program is designed to encourage the use of technology to make science, technology and math education more interesting to students.
Kids sitting around watching videos, doing little school work at home: It sounds more like a formula for the dumbing down of America than advancing science and math education.
Yet when it comes to STEM education, Willis Junior High is on the cutting edge, and as a result the school this week received a grant of more than $47,000 to extend its technology use to boost science, technology, engineering and math education.
Willis is a leader in the use of technology in the classroom through netbooks and "flipped classrooms," in which students learn from video-recorded lectures at home and complete "homework" in class.
"The biggest thing is the professional development because with budget issues in the state, it's hard to provide professional development," Willis Principal Jeff Delp said.
The grant for Verizon Innovative Learning Schools Program is funded by the Verizon Foundation. It will be implemented by the International Society for Technical Education.
"This is a big deal because a lot of schools are struggling to implement technology into the classroom," said Justina Nixon-Saintil, the Verizon Foundation's director of education initiatives.
Verizon has a vested interest in training future engineers to replace workers as they retire. The program is designed to use technology to make science, technology and math education more interesting to students.
Willis, in south Chandler, is among 12 schools across the country to receive a grant. It is the only school in Arizona to be awarded the competitive grant, which ranges from $35,000 to $50,000. Verizon targeted middle schools in which at least 40 percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced lunches.
"We are very focused on the middle schools because research shows that is an age at which many students become disengaged," Nixon-Saintil said. "Our focus is to have an impact on STEM and to create a pipeline for us."
Students who earn degrees in science, technology, engineering and math also have higher earning potential over their lifetimes.
Coupled with that is a shortage of STEM workers and companies that can't fill jobs with qualified workers.
"There is a sense of urgency," Nixon-Saintil said.
The Verizon grant will go toward stipends for teachers, covering the costs of substitute teachers and paying conference fees. Verizon also is giving $300,000 to the International Society of Technical Education.
ISTE will train teachers over three days in July and August.
Verizon and ISTE plan to measure the success of the program with surveys taken before and after teachers are trained and also evaluate student test scores.
The program will benefit Verizon's Thinkfinity website, where teachers can post lesson plans and ideas about ways to use technology in education, Nixon-Saintil said.
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