South Williamsport receives $35,000 grant for new technology

$35,000 grant for new technology

The South Williamsport Area School District was one of the 765 schools in the state to receive a $35,000 grant to support computer science/STEM programs and teacher training.

The PAsmart grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education will provide more opportunities for students and staff throughout the district to learn, grow and develop in STEM.

The grant allocated $24,500 to purchase STEM-related items for classes while the remaining $10,500 is for professional training for teachers and one administrator.

Dwight Woodley, director of innovative learning and information systems, is excited about the possibilities that this grant will make attainable for the district. Growing what is available to students allows them to achieve deeper learning and teach them the necessary skills required for the workforce.

“There is a shortage of qualified individuals in Pennsylvania who are able to fill computer science jobs,” he said. “They are high paying jobs because of the high demand.”

Providing teachers with the knowledge to help their students develop the skills to obtain those types of jobs once they graduate from high school is the main goal of the PAsmart initiative.

Currently the district has different programmable technology such as Spheros and Ozobots that the students love to work with. The children are excited to see their coding skills come to life through the robots.

“Students are given opportunities to create, explore, fail and learn from those mistakes,” said Woodley. “These tools allow them to explore and develop their passions.”

Teachers will submit wishlist items, such as 3D printers or Raspberry Pi, to enhance their curriculum.

To continue to keep that technology alive in the classroom, teachers have to be well-informed about how to use those devices and how best to utilize them in lessons. A small team of teachers will do professional development either through Code.org or Apple’s “Everyone Can Code” training.

Both seminars start with the foundation of basic block coding and expand upon how it can be applied in the classroom.

“Having a few teachers go through a training creates a vital network in each building that other teachers can use as a resource,” he said.

This grant is a springboard to help the school district achieve its development goals in the STEM program. Along with the support of the South Williamsport Area School District Education Foundation and the community, those goals will become a reality in the near future.