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Howard secures TVA grant to promote STEM study

MADISON – Bonnie Howard, Library Media Specialist at Madison Elementary School, has secured a grant from TVA to boost study in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics or STEM.

“In 2018, the State of Alabama adopted the Alabama Computer Science and Digital literacy standards,” Howard said. “I saw this STEM grant as an opportunity to fund hardware (specifically micro:bits and Chromebooks) that gives students hands-on application and facilitates learning the new digital literacy/computer science standards.”

Howard titled her grant proposal, “Conquering Global Goals Through Collaboration and Coding.” “I was inspired by the micro:bit foundation’s ‘Do Your Bit’ challenge,” she said. (microbit.org/do-your-bit) The grant amount is $2,500.

Howard described ‘do your:bit’ as a global micro:bit challenge for children and teenagers. “Students will test their imagination and combine creativity and technology to come up with solutions for the Earth and Human Activity science standards,” she said.

In addition, Howard is partnering with local educational technology company, Firia Labs, to introduce students to Python programming with micro:bit. “Many of our students have been using block-based programming, like Scratch, for several years. They’re ready for a real-world programming language,” Howard said.

Because the grant is project-specific, Howard had to describe exactly how students will use the materials and ways that materials will support students in STEM education. TVA also required an itemized budget.

“TVA made the grant process very easy,” Howard said. “Defining a project that merges Global Goals with coding and encourages students to learn about the world outside their classroom also contributed to a successful grant application.”

Fifth-graders with teachers Shannon Lilienthal, Renee Yancey, Casey Cotton and Emily McCluskey first will learn about Sustainable Development Goals or Global Goals that relate to standards for Earth and Human Activity. Howard will work with students in the library to learn how to program micro:bits.

Then, students will create their own prototype to solve an actual problem. They will share these projects at Innovation Day in May.

As Library Media Specialist, Howard has the unique opportunity to collaborate with teachers and encourage library use as an extension of the classroom. “With addition of new digital literacy and computer science standards, our definition of literacy has expanded,” Howard said.

“Madison City Schools’ vision is to ’empower students for global success.’ I strongly believe providing students with opportunities to use coding will help prepare them for global success. It’s the primary reason for committing the time to pursue this grant,” Howard said.

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