STEM learning

The $8 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education will provide opportunities for third through fifth graders in Texas to explore STEM learning. 

Researchers with the Texas A&M College of Education and Human Development have received an $8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.

With a science and literacy focus, Project VICTORY, or Virtually-Infused Collaborations for Teaching and Learning Opportunities for Rural Youth, will look into the instruction of virtual and face-to-face learning. Co-Principal Investigator Beverly Irby said A&M was one of seven schools in the country to receive this grant.

“This is an extremely large grant in and of itself for the social sciences,” Irby said. “We are very fortunate to continue to receive these grants.”

The grant will allow for the researchers to explore virtual STEM learning versus face-to-face for students in the third to fifth grade in rural areas. According to an article on Texas A&M Today, this is the first controlled study of its kind. Principal Investigator for Project VICTORY Rafael Lara-Alecio said they are focusing on improving the teaching of English for students in addition to the focus on STEM.

“We expect that our students will be able to gather the proper English as an academic language, so they can be successful in content areas such as mathematics and science and to see the multiple benefits,” Lara-Alecio said.

The project will look at rural schools with low-incomes to help to enhance literacy through STEM incentives. Currently, the program has secured 77 Texas school districts, with a goal to add more, that are willing to allow the researchers to conduct the program within their schools.

“For many years, we have been working [on] creating trust between our programs and the school districts, which is not easy,” Lara-Alecio said. “The program was extremely impressed when we presented 70 school districts across Texas eager to work with our program because they know the type of quality program we have.”

With the program’s focus on STEM, the plan is to provide take-home science experiments for students to complete with their families. Irby said this is important because it allows for families to be exposed to the program at home and beyond the classroom through family involvement in science.

STEM students at A&M can get involved with this program by serving as science role models and mentors for students. Researchers hope having college students serve as mentors will increase the interest in STEM areas as well as motivate the students.

“It’s a beautiful model,” Irby said. “We have students from our campus helping students out in the [elementary] schools.”

The project will run for three years beginning in the fall of 2021. More information for this project can be found on the College of Education and Human Development website.

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