Under the direction of Tori Flowers, South Tattnall Middle School (STMS) STEM Coordinator, the school has received its second STEM/STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math/Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) grant for $21,500.
“We are most appreciative of these grant funds so as to advance our students further in the job skills they will need in the future,” Flowers said.
Flowers, who started her career in 2011 at STMS, has a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education in Math and Science, a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction, and a Specialist degree in Educational Leadership.
This grant was quite competitive, and STMS was one of only ten recipients in the state.
“We have been extremely blessed with our local community partners, such as Glennville Bank, who gave a generous $6,000 donation in 2018 that allowed us to purchase virtual reality headsets and Spheros for our Innovation Station,” Flowers said. “Our goal is to make sure our students have career readiness and employability skills.”
She explained that the grant, known as Rural Innovation Education Grant for STEM/STEAM, has three main parts.
“The main focus of the grant is the professional development for teachers in STEM/STEAM. This involves integrating the employability skills associated with CTAE (Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education) standards into the classrooms and making these skills a vital part of our curriculum,” Flowers said.
“The second part of the grant is the Career Exploration Class taught by Keith DeLoach; this is accompanied by a Computer Science Class that I am teaching along with Geoff Atkinson. These classes are being taught through the iCEV (Creative Educational Video) program and will allow students to connect more closely with career readiness education and employability skills. Each grade level will be involved, but the majority of the grant activities through the iCEV program will be with seventh and eighth graders. However, our mission is to incorporate all students,” she added.
“The third part of the grant includes two upcoming events. We are excited about offering a Career Fair, in which we need community members to place booths so that our students and teachers can discover the many careers offered in various fields. Through this Career Fair, our teachers can find out what they can be doing in their classrooms to teach skills that employers desire and to connect their content with real-world applications. We feel this community outreach is vital to the success of our program,” Flowers said.
The tentative date for the career fair is Thursday, December 8, 2022, at STMS. Another event is a Career Convention that is planned for the spring of 2023, in which further connections with the business community can be made.
The official description of this FY22 Rural Education Innovation STEM/STEAM Grant is “to assist districts and schools ... with professional learning in collaboration with regional and local community partners to create and develop STEM/STEAM programs/activities that help students make connections between the content standards, their passions, and curiosities, and strategic partnership experiences within the local or regional community.”
“We realize, and especially since COVID, that employers are finding it difficult to locate engaged employees who have work ethics that fit into their organization. Many know from being in the same office with coworkers of the amount of time often spent on social media instead of the job of the company. We hope that when our students leave STMS they are aware that ‘employability’ is a job skill that requires their dedication to their job during the hours they are at their place of work,” said Flowers, with employers desiring these future students to be a part of a team effort for the company.
“We are utilizing our teachers who have already been trained with the first Rural Innovation Grant that we received to teach the other staff. We will conduct much of this through our grade level meetings each week, with at least once a month devoted to these connections,” Flowers said.
She will be assisted in this instruction by Kimberly Scott and Jennifer Carlson. These three are considered STEM certified Tier 3/4 teachers who will be instructing the Tier 1/2 teachers on these initiatives.
“The goal is for career readiness and employability skills to be taught in all classrooms and settings at STMS. As we educate teachers to utilize STEM teaching strategies into their classrooms, the integration of employability skills will follow suit. When the students have projects, they will reflect on their current knowledge and incorporate problem solving and research skills. We have become a society of young people who want instant gratification with the click of a button or mouse. Our thinking, reasoning, and research skills have suffered,” Flowers said.
“Technology is definitely here to stay and a huge part of our future. However, our students need to discover that there is more to the problem than the answer. It is the journey along the way in other aspects of their future careers,” Flowers said.