STEM grants funding environmental projects

STEM grants funding environmental projects

(Miss.) Science and engineering teachers throughout coastal Mississippi are receiving money to help fund meaningful lessons and provide resources on environmental health and sustainability.

The annual grant totaling $15,000–awarded by the local public utility company, Mississippi Power–will be divvied up among 35 teachers within the company’s 23-county service territory.

“Mississippi Power encourages hands-on indoor and outdoor classroom activities to engage students in environmental study,” Mark Loughman, environmental affairs director, said in a statement. “We hope these projects will foster an interest in environmental and engineering sciences, and promote stewardship across south Mississippi.”

Across the country, states have grappled with politics and controversy surrounding human impact on climate change and the environment, as well as the cost of textbooks and other materials needed to teach to the engineering components of science education.

In Hawaii, schools are receiving funds from the Legislature as part of a statewide initiative to use 100 percent clean and reusable energy by 2045, and students will get hands-on experience learning about clean energy during the process of outfitting schools with solar panels, LED lighting and low-flow toilets.

Other states have not been as lucky. In Montana, for example, science standards were reworked simply because the engineering component built into the Next Generation Science Standard –which the state helped develop–was expected to be too large a financial burden for districts.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has provided guidance to districts on pooling resources to support teacher training and share information, but many still struggle to accommodate teachers’ needs–especially in rural areas such as Mississippi.

Some of the winners of Mississippi Power’s grant announced last week will take on ambitious projects. At Harper McCaughan Elementary School, students will build and manage a centrally located weather station that keeps tabs on air-quality, and signifies poor or positive conditions using different colored flags. Meanwhile, students at L.C. Hatcher Elementary School will build outdoor classrooms, as well as build flower beds and vegetable gardens.

A handful of districts will use the money to pay for microscopes or environmental science books, update greenhouses and take on smaller projects.

In the past, grant recipients even created an aquaponics program, in which students learned how to grow fish in a greenhouse, use the fish waste to grow plants in a water-based environment, and sell the vegetables from those plants back to the school.

“We believe in nurturing the next generation of environmental visionaries,” Loughman said. “Hundreds of students will have an opportunity to participate in and learn from the great projects these teachers have proposed.”