The Fox Chapel Area School District has partnered with six school districts to lead a STEM advancement effort for students and educators in Western Pennsylvania.
The district announced in September that it had received a PAsmart Advancing grant of $480,000 through the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
The grant will help support educational opportunities and experiences for students enrolled in computer science and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) courses.
Through the grant, the Fox Chapel Area School District is working with the following districts: Leechburg Area, Freeport Area, New Kensington-Arnold, Aliquippa, Duquesne City, and Grove City Area.
The STEM initiative has four main goals: to increase access to digital fabrication learning experiences, to train educators to increase success and sustainability, to increase effectiveness in facilitating STEM learning, and to increase the activation of STEM, with a focus on traditionally underrepresented students.
Jill Leonard, community engagement manager for Fox Chapel Area, pointed out that participating districts range in size from large to small. Fox Chapel Area accommodates over 4,000 students while Leechburg Area accommodates approximately 650 students.
“Partnering with similar and different school systems helps collaboration and learning to be richer for everyone,” Leonard said. “The partner systems have committed to working collaboratively to implement the grant.”
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Mary Catherine Reljac is superintendent of the Fox Chapel Area School District.
The program is for all students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
More than 200 teachers and 5,600 students from western Pennsylvania will be involved.
Leechburg Area Superintendent Tiffany Nix said teacher training is expected to begin this winter.
“This collaboration opens the door to cutting-edge professional development for our science teachers, which in turn will provide our students with the best science and experiential education,” Nix said. “We are grateful for this opportunity.”
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Leechburg-area biology teacher Ann Fischer has been working with her students for the past month.
Elementary-level STEM teachers will receive professional training in next-generation concepts, including engineering design theory, systems thinking, and meaning-making.
Training and professional development sessions will be delivered by representatives of the Consortium for Public Education, the National Science Teaching Association, and the Fox Chapel Area School District.
Fox Chapel Area Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac welcomed the collaboration, adding that no matter what school colors are worn in the classrooms, she believes everyone is stronger as a region. , working together, in the best interests of the students.
“The (Fox Chapel Area School District) is proud to lead this collaboration to provide essential professional learning for educators,” Reljac said. “Coming together helps us access a wider range of expertise, support a community of learners, and create sustainable systems.”