Coral Canyon Elementary partnership wins $100,000 STEM grant

WASHINGTON CITY — Coral Canyon Elementary students who belong to the STEM Adventure Club, already the school’s most popular after-school activity, will soon have access to even more resources and opportunities thanks to a recent grant of nearly $100,000 from the Utah STEM Action Center.

Warrin Richins, Title 1 coordinator at Coral Canyon Elementary School, said the grant of $99,363 will be paid out in three annual installments.

Coral Canyon Elementary School students in STEM Adventure Club program “bee bots,” Washington, Utah, Dec. 14, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“Over the next three years, we will be receiving a yearly allotment of that money, based on our budget plan,” he said. “This year we plan on using the $36,000 that we’re going to get to go toward Lego robotics kits for the students.”

The school currently has five such kits and will soon be purchasing 22 more with a portion of this year’s grant money, Richins said. Other funds will be used to help pay for teachers and staff assistants to receive computer science training, he said.

More than 50 students are signed up as members of the STEM Adventure Club, with anywhere between 30 and 45 of them typically attending each week.

The students devoted their time Thursday to learning how to program simple “bee bot” toys to navigate a course marked with tape on the floor. A trio of student teachers in training helped supervise and teach the children, who worked enthusiastically in groups to solve each task.

Student teacher Keanna Graff demonstrates how to program “bee bots” to Coral Canyon Elementary School students in STEM Adventure Club, Washington, Utah, Dec. 14, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

It’s all part of the school’s new partnership with Utah State University Extension 4-H in Washington County, which recently selected Coral Canyon as its first STEM Partner School.

The partnership began in September with a grant-writing workshop that helped Coral Canyon apply for the funding it received from the Utah STEM Action Center, said Paul Hill, an associate professor at USU Extension.

“In this new partnership, USU Extension 4-H will provide the school with access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) resources such as micro-controllers, soldering and robotics kits and computer science curriculum,” Hill said in a written statement announcing the partnership and successful grant. “The partnership also includes ongoing professional development and support for administration and faculty.”

Coral Canyon Elementary School students in STEM Adventure Club work with programmable “bee bots,” Washington, Utah, Dec. 14, 2017 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News

“We are enthusiastic about this new relationship with Coral Canyon Elementary and the funding that will bring cutting-edge STEM education to their students,” Hill added. “An understanding of computer science is increasingly essential in today’s world, and whether these youth want to become pilots, farmers, doctors, teachers or entrepreneurs, they will be better positioned to achieve their dreams in the 21st century if they have some type of background in computer science and computational thinking.

“By teaching students to program, we also open up their minds to the possibilities of solving problems in novel ways.”

Hill noted the Coral Canyon funding comes at an opportune time, as Google and 4-H are also partnering at the national level on a new computer science and problem solving initiative, with Utah State University Extension 4-H at the forefront.

Coral Canyon Elementary School Principal Jennifer Eggleston said she is excited about the opportunities the new STEM programs and resources will provide to students.

“We have to prepare kids for jobs that do not even exist yet,” she said.


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