The Google Community Grants Fund of Tides Foundation recently donated $80,000 to the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District to support Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) curriculum and to purchase netbooks for students to use in classrooms and libraries.
The Teacher/Student STEM Innovation Grant will enable the district to address the challenge of improving the performance of students who live in poverty – approximately 20 percent of the total school population.
The district’s most critically underperforming students tend to be those who do not have access to resources available in abundance to other students, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. To help students catch up in math, science and English, the majority of underperforming students are enrolled in two math and/or English classes to allow more time to develop their skills and reach proficiency.
The district will use the netbooks purchased for “Skills” classes that assist low-achieving students in mastering Common Core Standards. The netbooks – set to be housed in the high school libraries – will enable students to develop informational and technological literacies via a series of workshops on using online resources. Lightweight, portable and with a long battery life, the devices will facilitate instruction and collaboration on school projects.
STEM Innovation Grants
The district received Google grants in 2011 and 2012 to promote innovation in math, science and engineering classes. The grants funded projects that involved esterification studies, conducting experiments, studying ethanol production and algae as an alternative fuel source, extracting DNA to determine lactose intolerance and conducting home energy audits.
Teacher/Student STEM Innovation Grants are designed to improve teaching and learning and to increase enrollment and success in STEM classes by engaging students in hands-on, project-based learning experiences.
Although the grants aim to assist all students, they particularly encourage involvement from Latino students in rigorous STEM classes. As traditional teaching methods do not always work well with the target population, MVLA works to find ways to make the educational experiences more relevant and practical, both in terms of how students learn and relating what they learn to future employment opportunities.
“The long-term value and impact we hope to generate through this project will go far beyond the walls of our schools,” said Brigitte Sarraf, associate superintendent of educational services. “If we were to be successful in improving the academic achievement of our low socioeconomic students, it would result in a more highly educated workforce and potentially stem the cycle of poverty, as many more students would be the first ones in their families to attend college and to have the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully compete in our global economy.”
Sarraf said the district has learned from past experience that teachers are “capable of designing amazing learning experiences and lessons for their students when given appropriate resources and support.”