Afterschool programs at New Hope Elementary, Middle and High schools in Madison County will be receiving a boost in tools and training to provide students with new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning experiences. The resources are being provided through the Alabama Afterschool Community Network (ALACN), an initiative of Auburn University’s College of Education and its Truman Pierce Institute (TPI), and partially funded by a grant from the Boeing Company.
“Boeing is proud to support initiatives that provide students with greater access to hands-on, problem-based activities. Experiential learning is key to sparking curiosity and inspiring students while helping them develop the 21st century skills that will help them succeed,” said Boeing Community Investor Tina Watts.
“In the United States today, there are almost 20 million kids who have nowhere to go when the school bell rings at the end of the day,” said Paul Morin, ALACN State Coordinator. “The New Hope schools help to address this need in an area that experiences poverty rates in excess of 50 percent. Thanks to the generosity of the Boeing Corporation, the students of New Hope will be afforded far deeper and richer experiential learning that exposes them to interrelated, cross-disciplinary STEM practices for real world insight.”
Morin noted that although Alabama’s graduation rate rose to 89 percent last year, only 27 percent of those graduating seniors showed interest in pursuing STEM-related careers.
“That’s a huge problem for our state, our economy, and our workforce,” he said. “Schools must meet so many standards now. You’ve got to pass tests and conduct assessments, and somewhere in there students can lose that sense of wonder. Excellence in the STEM disciplines depends on inventiveness, exploration, and creativity while learning in the process. Boeing understands this.”
The Afterschool program teaches these STEM skills in innovative ways. New Hope’s Middle School Afterschool students placed 9th in the state in archery two years ago. Last year, its high school Afterschool students placed first. Their science teacher used archery to teach them about velocity and trajectory.
“This is something the kids could relate to, because they all love archery,” said Morin. “It helped them connect the dots. Similarly, the third graders were learning about fractions and measurements in school, so the Afterschool program engaged them in following recipes and cooking, where they put that knowledge to a practical task that made learning fun. That’s what this grant can do.”
In addition to this grant, Auburn University maintains a presence in north Alabama, where its Huntsville Research Center is located. Auburn and several north Alabama industries, including Boeing, have leveraged each other’s capabilities, and the Research Center has facilitated collaborations between area industries and Auburn’s researchers.
College of Education Dean Betty Lou Whitford attended the presentation ceremony in Auburn and noted the positive aspects of Afterschool programs such as the one in New Hope supported by Boeing.
“It’s well known that juvenile crime escalates after 3:00 p.m., because so many kids have nowhere to go,” Whitford said. “Afterschool programs enrich our state’s communities in many ways. We’re very grateful to Boeing for helping students rediscover the excitement of learning through innovative ways that engage and propel them toward the future. This gift will help change lives and build our communities.”