Board learns value of STEM based initiatives

ALPENA — The Alpena Board of Education Curriculum and Technology Committee listened to the extensive STEM based initiatives Alpena Public Schools offers which range from the elementary schools up to the high school and from in-class to after-class.

Joyce McCoy, director of K-12 instruction, said many times these initiatives — based on science, technology, engineering and math — are overlooked and many do not get to see the extensive resources put toward these projects.

“We have so many great things going on in STEM and I think oftentimes we don’t see the community involvement in our STEM projects nor do we see the amount of money we spend on our STEM projects and the amount of personnel and kids involved in our STEM activities,” she said.

McCoy cited the Alpena High School robotics team for its stellar performances as well as the different funding sources it receives. While the district has appropriated $1,400 to the program, grants from the youth and recreation, donations from community businesses and fundraisers have provided a significant source of the program’s budget.

Committee members also were informed that each of the six elementary schools have their own robotics programs that compete in different challenges. In addition to the robotics program, the district recently was awarded a grant for each elementary school to begin participating in the Science Olympiad.

With the addition of Science Olympiad to the elementary schools, students can participate in the program from kindergarten to graduation.

McCoy discussed the district’s expanding partnership with Project Lead the Way. This is a nonprofit organization which provides curriculum and professional development for teachers in the STEM fields.

Three years ago the district received a three-year $65,000 annual grant to help offset the teachers training and supplies required for the program. McCoy said while the grant is set to expire at the end of this school year, the program will continue.

The district also partners with the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, which facilitates students with professionals in Great Lakes conservation. This allows students the opportunity to perform experiments and studies with the goal of helping them become better Great Lakes stewards.

Also highlighted in the district’s STEM initiatives was a class recently recognized by the Michigan State Board of Education, Shipwreck Alley. The class uses a placed-based education method to combine a slew of different subjects such as local history, math and technology to connect students to their community.

McCoy said the district looks to build upon its success in the STEM fields and increase its scores in the science fields.

“Hopefully we grow these projects more and grow the interest of students and grow the interest in science knowing that science affects reading and math and all the other subjects too,” she said.

Tyler Winowiecki can be reached via email at twinowiecki@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Tyler on Twitter tw_alpenanews.