(Family Features) Education is particularly critical for today’s students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as the number of jobs with an emphasis in STEM is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years, according to the National Science and Math Initiative.
With the right funding, schools across the country are putting an emphasis on STEM education and looking for new ways to make a difference in the lives of their students and their communities. For Rochelle Middle School in Rochelle, Illinois, a $25,000 grant from the America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, enabled the school to enhance its science curriculum by exposing students to STEM-related career opportunities and preparing students for the workforce. The program included the purchase of a 3D printer to introduce students to the technology and bring their designs and ideas to life.
Shortly after the program began, the students learned about a local farmer who lost his arm in an accident while working in the field and they began working on a program to use the 3D printer to build a fully-functioning prosthesis for him.
Other Americas Farmers Grow Rural Education grants have helped schools expand their science curriculum by building greenhouses, continuing a remote-operated-vehicle science program, developing a livestock learning laboratory on a high school campus and others.
“STEM education is a vital foundation for the future of students and communities,” said Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund president. “With the support of local farmers, we are proud to provide resources to engage and excite students in their STEM educations, and help them understand practical applications of their studies.”
Since starting the program, Rochelle Middle School’s parents and teachers have noticed a change in students, as they seem more engaged and excited to learn. Many even stay after school for an independent study course with their science teacher.
“The grant helped enhance our STEM offering to students and show them what their futures could hold,” said Vic Worthington, Rochelle Middle School science instructor. “In middle school, it’s easy for these students to go to school each day, but not understand the full picture of possibilities of their futures. Through this program, schools are able to put possibilities in front of students they couldn’t have previously dreamed of.”
The Grow Rural Education program is seeking nominations from farmers through April 1, 2017, to help provide rural public schools with funding for STEM projects. Since the program began partnering with farmers in 2011, more than $11 million has been awarded to help rural schools in need. To learn more about the program or how farmers can nominate a school near them, visit GrowRuralEducation.com.