Lt. gov. sees STEM grant in action
Jan. 17, 2019
LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ky. — Students at Blaine and Louisa middle schools got a special
visit from Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jenean Hampton as she toured several classrooms to see
first-hand how students are engaging in STEM fields.
Thanks to an $815,000 multi-year American Electric Power Foundation Credits Count grant that is funding efforts to boost science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in Lawrence County Schools, administration and faculty say students are being exposed to career paths they may not have ever learned about otherwise.
“They are not exposed to a lot of stuff,” said Shawn Jennings, principal of Blaine Elementary School. “A lot of them don’t travel to Louisa, they don’t travel to Paintsville, for example. With the Credits Count program, Mia Brown has brought in a lot of stuff such as STEM Night, STEM related activities. She has helped us by bringing in things like the knee replacement surgeries, the kidney transplant and the Learning Blade system. It has been really, really nice for our kids because they are seeing STEM careers that they’ve never been exposed to or never even thought of.”
Ashland Community and Technical College heads up the grant for Lawrence County Schools, and grant director Mia Brown said the Learning Blade platform has allowed students to be exposed to more than 100 different careers and technologies and take classes that support them in high school as well as their post-secondary career.
Learning Blade was created by Dr. Dane and Sheila Boyington, who were also present during the tours. They said Louisa Middle School is the most active school in the nation utilizing this platform.
“We did a recent study with our middle school students here who have participated with Learning Blade before and after, and students who maybe didn’t like STEM or who didn’t have an interest in STEM,” Brown said. “We were able to raise that interest by 33 percent after being exposed to different careers and technologies through Learning Blade. We’ve also been able to decrease disinterest by 22 percent. We are getting students to enjoy STEM and think about new opportunities.”
Having Lt. Gov. Hampton visit the schools to see what progress had been made was an honor, said Brown.
“It is an honor to be recognized and celebrated by our Lt. governor for the impact Credits Count program is making in Lawrence County. Each year we continue to grow in interest and awareness in STEM careers and technologies.”
During Lt. Gov. Hampton’s tour, she was able to view classrooms where Learning Blade was integrated into the curriculum in the areas of math, science class and social studies.
“Their abilities are going up. Their test scores are going up. It’s opening them up to things they didn’t even think about,” said Sharon Fields, sixth grade math teacher at Blaine.
Her students were busy constructing their own concept cars out of household objects like toilet paper rolls and pill bottle caps, propelling them with rubber bands.
“They have to come up with their own ideas,” Fields said. “And they study about how a car is born, basically. And we talked about what their car of the future would be. They have loved this.”
In Rebecca Hollifield’s sixth grade social studies classroom, students were doing a farming simulation. The students simulated being in a farming co-op and they planned how many crops to plant to try and yield the most profit.
“You can assign things for kids to work on on their own, but I like that I can pull out these simulations, and most of my kids are hands-on,” Hollifield said.
In addition to touring classrooms, Lt. Gov. Hampton also took time to speak to the middle schoolers at an assembly at each school.
“It’s really cool to be here and see this program,” Hampton said. “There was nothing like Learning Blade when I was your age. What’s different in the way you are learning from the way I was taught is, you are thinking about things. You’re not just being taught math, you’re being shown how math is applied to saving dolphins, to designing cars, to making everyday decisions, and I love that.”
Lawrence County School Superintendent Dr. Robbie Fletcher said the success the students have had with the grant wouldn’t be possible without the partnership of American Electric Power, Learning Blade and ACTC.