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Big Grant Boosts STEM Education at Arts & Technology Academy

School gets nearly $700,000 grant to increase hands-on integrated learning in science, technology, engineering and math

Dream. Design. Make. Learn. That’s what middle school students at 4J’s Arts & Technology Academy will soon be doing more of, thanks to a $690,932 STEM Lab School grant from the state.

The Arts & Technology Academy emphasizes STEM studies (or STEAM, including art), focusing on science, technology, engineering and math. Now the southwest Eugene middle school is taking its STEM focus to the next level.

The large grant will help the Arts & Technology Academy transform into a “STEM lab school,” where teachers and students engage first-hand with exciting and relevant projects integrating science, technology, engineering and math throughout the curriculum. Hands-on, real-world projects will help students learn to think critically and creatively. The purpose is to create a living and learning STEM school where teachers and students engage in the best practices around integration and mastery of science, technology, engineering and mathematics content in a project-rich atmosphere.

The school also will acquire new tools for hands-on learning, from iPads to Vernier probes to 3D printers, and industry partners will lend more specialized industry tools to enable students to carry out authentic STEM projects.

“Our school will serve as a model for educators and industry leaders to visit and see what great STEM education looks like,” said Arts & Technology Academy Principal Jeffry Johnson. “We are creating a learning environment that supports and stimulates students with hands-on, minds-on, integrated learning of high-value STEM skills. And thanks to the involvement of our many industry partners, our students won’t just learn these skills in the classroom, they’ll connect them to real-world projects and careers.”

The shift creates a unique opportunity for students to gain a strong STEM education throughout their middle and high school years: The Arts & Technology Academy’s neighborhood high school is Churchill, which also offers a strong STEM program and Eugene’s only full-scale high school pre-engineering program.

Students in the middle and high school STEM programs will have comfortable, modern facilities in which to learn: The Arts & Technology Academy building will soon be largely replaced and renovated, funded by the 2013 bond measure. Churchill High School’s recently completed STEM Studio provides appealing learning space, after a major renovation funded by an earlier bond measure..

The Arts & Technology Academy will work with numerous private engineering and information technology firms and other industry partners—including Symantec, Cisco, Eugene Water & Electric Board, netCorps, NetApp, Info@Risk, IRIS Educational Media and InSilico—to provide mentoring, guidance, equipment and other support. These partnerships will help connect students’ STEM learning to real-world issues, projects and careers.

Another major partner, Boys & Girls Club of Emerald Valley, will extend the STEM learning day with an enhanced STEM-focused after-school program. Students can walk across the school parking lot to the Boys & Girls Club after school and continue learning until 6:30 in the evening, with Claymation, computer programming, apps and model creation, robotics, STEM homework support and more.

Other key partners—including University of Oregon STEM Core, Education Northwest and Connected Lane County—will provide staff professional development and other support.

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