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Grant will fund STEM for K-12 schools

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Chilton County K-12 schools will soon have more STEM opportunities as a part of the Acellus 10 project.

The school system has received a $43,000 grant for computer programming and robotics resources starting in third-grade. Some local funding will also be required as an investment in the program.

Acellus 10 is a 10-year initiative of the Institute of Science and Technology.

According to the Acellus website, “The first 6 years of the program focus on STEM instruction, starting with coding in the 3rd grade, and adding complexity each year. In the 9th grade, students then branch into a Career and Technical field that matches their interest.”

In Chilton County, students could choose to apply to the STEM Academy or another program at the LeCroy Career Technical Center.

According to Ashlie Harrison, director for Teaching and Learning, the program would meet the state requirement for computer programming to be offered in elementary school, which will take effect next year.

Similar opportunities are already offered at Clanton and Jemison schools through Project Lead the Way.

Teachers had approached Harrison about the program and grant opportunity as a resource for their science curriculum.

“They reached out to me because they needed more resources in general,” Harrison said. “We thought this would be a good way to start the process of getting some STEM in our K-12 schools. We are paying a third of the price of it.”

Jay LeCroy, STEM director for the school system, worked on the grant application as well.

The program would fit into existing science classes, Harrison said.

“I think it will be very beneficial,” Harrison said.

The program is designed for instructors who may not have a background in coding and uses video instruction to explain the content.

As a part of the consent agenda during the Sept. 17 meeting, the Chilton County Board of Education approved receiving the Acellus 10 funds and moving forward with the program.

The school system had been granted an extension so that it could be considered by the board.

Superintendent Jason Griffin said the item was time sensitive because of a grant opportunity.

“It looked like a great program,” board member Angie Sanderson said. “From what I saw, what we will actually get with our money is the actual tables and computers and robots.”

“I am all for STEM,” board member Pam Price said. “I think it’s awful that we don’t have it in our K-12 schools, but this is another program that the teachers are going to have to do.”

She expressed concern that the K-12 principals had not been a part of the discussion before a recommendation was made to the school board.

“There was a very quick turnaround,” Harrison said. “I apologize that I did not have time to speak to the principals … I did speak to many teachers … and they liked it as a resource.”

Sanderson said she saw the program as a way to grow career tech in the county by getting students interested at a younger age.

Verbena High School Principal Tammy Hand and Maplesville High School Principal John Howard said the program looked like it would be a good thing for the K-12 schools.