BEDFORD — Elementary students in Lawrence and Orange counties are getting an early connection to the job skills of tomorrow thanks to an investment from United Way of South Central Indiana. With contributions of $78,000 from the GM Foundation and another $10,000 from Duke Energy, the agency has been able to start dedicated STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) classrooms at Lincoln Elementary and Parkview Elementary in Bedford and supplement STEM classrooms in Mitchell and Orleans.
Wednesday, May 12, the first dedicated Makerspace Classroom was installed at Lincoln Elementary School, within the North Lawrence Community School (NLCS) District.
In March of this year, United Way of South Central Indiana received a grant from the GM Foundation that enabled two elementary schools, Lincoln Elementary, and Parkview Elementary, to create and implement dedicated STEM Makerspace classrooms.
STEM Makerspaces provide tools to help students learn hands-on STEM skills. The grant funds also supply STEM training for teachers, STEM books, Makerspace kits, and classroom instructional materials for teachers and students to implement the program.
Last year UWSCI partnered with North Lawrence Community Schools to implement STEM education that will provide hands-on lessons in science, technology, engineering, and math in an interdisciplinary approach. Early STEM learning establishes a strong foundation of skills in science, math, creativity, problem-solving and critical thinking.
UWSCI donated $50,000 and $25,000 yearly afterward with the plans to expand to other pre-schools in Lawrence and Orange counties.
United Way of South Central Indiana officials sees these first classrooms as just a beginning. The organization has already applied for other traditional grants and will try for another GM Foundation grant once the process opens in October.
“My plans are that each elementary school in both Lawrence and Orange counties will have dedicated STEM classrooms,” said Kim Burgess, executive director of the agency. “We just submitted our final report for the GM Foundation grant. We are hoping to be able to apply for the second round to get four more schools funded.”
Anyone who’d like to help United Way of South Central Indiana financially, or by giving time to the new mentoring program, can visit www.unitedwaysci.org or call 812-278-8613. The agency has also launched a new Facebook page to help spread the word about its activities. The United Way of South Central Indiana team members is happy to give presentations on the organization’s mission for businesses, civic clubs, chambers of commerce, and other groups.