When it comes to education, $8,000 can go a long way.
Clarke Community School District’s agricultural education program is receiving an $8,000 STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) grant, which will bring new coursework to the program.
“The application was a fairly easy application,” said Brandi Boyd, agricultural education instructor and FFA (Future Farmers of America) advisor at Clarke Community High School. “It was an online application that we had to do, and it asked ‘What are you interested in? How would you use this?’”
With STEM, the state has an initiative to help provide students with more opportunities in those areas because there is a need for jobs in those areas. STEM grants help to create and provide funds for programs to educate students.
The STEM program that focuses on agriculture is called CASE (Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education). The CASE program has different, smaller focus programs within it.
The program Boyd will focus on is AFNR (Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources). It is an introductory, freshman-based class.
Part of the $8,000 funding will cover Boyd attending two weeks of training during the summer to prepare for the new coursework.
“They take you through the curriculum,” she said. “They don’t just give you the packet of curriculum and say, ‘Good luck with that.’ They actually take you through the curriculum, and so, the teachers become students for two weeks.”
The training means there will be homework at night for Boyd.
The rest of the funding will go toward buying equipment for student labs, including microscopes, incubators, beakers, petri dishes and glassware.
Boyd currently teaches the introductory ag-science class, and the grant will bring new curriculum into it. However, she will still be able to incorporate old curriculum with the new coursework
“Hopefully, by going through the STEM Initiative, my focus will be a lot more rigorous and a lot more focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Boyd said. “Not that it’s not right now, but this will, hopefully, really condense it and really focus on those skills.”
Once Boyd implements the new class, it will be something she can continue to use from year to year. It’s not a one-time class.
Boyd applied for another STEM grant for next year, and if that one is approved, she can choose from one of the other programs, possibly animal science, plants or natural resources. That grant will be announced in the fall.
Even though this year’s grant is to aid agricultural education, it will still help other classes throughout the school.
Boyd said STEM is “standard based,” which means it is tied to national science and mathematics standards.
“So, the same standards that the math department is working toward, and the same standards that the science department is working toward have also been integrated into my ag lessons,” she said.