Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Urban Farming Projects Grow Students’ Interest in STEM

AT&T and the NEA Foundation extend programs in Milwaukee, NYC; develop curriculum that can be replicated nationwide


WASHINGTON, DC (Jan. 29, 2014) AT&T and the NEA Foundation will support the expansion  of popular urban farming programs in Milwaukee, WI and New York City, NY  to  increase inner city students’ interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) through a two-year total contribution of $300,000 for Fall 2013 through Fall of 2015. The goal: provide more students with the skills and knowledge they’ll need for 21st century jobs and develop curriculum and instructional content that educators can use to build similar programs nationwide.


The Urban Schools Aquaponics Initiative in Milwaukee, WI and Project EATS, a program of the Active Citizens Project, in New York City, NY, were selected because of their early success in advancing STEM education among low-income and minority students.


“Projects like these empower educators to develop and use proven practices to deliver rigorous, engaging learning experiences that we know excite and interest underrepresented student groups in STEM,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.


“In order to keep our country’s economic growth and innovation engine moving, it’s critical that we develop STEM skills in our young people,” said Nicole Anderson, Executive Director of Philanthropy at AT&T. “Programs like this one with the NEA Foundation ignite the interest of the next generation in the STEM skills they’ll need to succeed through exciting, real-world applications.”


Research indicates that underperformance in STEM education arises from systemic issues: teachers with little professional support; inadequate alignment of standards and curriculum; and insufficient understanding of the relevance to students’ lives about the need to achieve in these subjects. Both projects will focus on providing more personal, engaging, coordinated, and consistent STEM learning.


Aquaponics is a highly efficient and sustainable form of farming in which water from aquatic animals is used to feed hydroponically grown plants. The plants filter the water, which is then re-circulated back to the fish. Aquaponics programs enable students to use and explore science and math principles in a variety of ways as they gain valuable 21st century skills and knowledge.


Thanks to support from the NEA Foundation and AT&T, over the last three years, the Urban Schools Aquaponics Initiative has been integrated into nine new schools, for a total of 13 Milwaukee public schools. A professional learning community meets regularly and allows educators and schools to exchange ideas, brainstorm ways to improve, and bring in outside experts to present new information.


The new contribution will support five new schools, reaching a total of 1,500 Milwaukee Public School (MPS) students over two years. It will also support the development of a cohesive, comprehensive aquaponics curriculum aligned with the newly released math and science standards that will be piloted in the participating schools. Ultimately, an aquaponics curriculum would be available to all 49 MPS high school and 125 K-8 schools, with the potential to reach all 78,500 students in the district.


In New York City, Project EATS (PE) builds farms on school grounds enabling students to work with experienced farmers to grow, package, and market their products as they acquire skills and expertise in homemade product manufacturing, business and marketing, promotion, and sales. With the new contribution, PE will be offered in five additional high schools, potentially reaching more than 1,500 students. The funding will also be used to standardize a four-year curriculum, with more focus on STEM learning, as well as experiential and peer-to-peer learning.


Formative and summative evaluation will be employed throughout the funding period to assess progress in both cities, to identify areas for improvement, gather evidence of success, and enable future replication in schools across the country, with the goal of increasing high school students’ engagement, interest, and excellence in STEM.


Read more about this work in the NEA Foundation's report, "Harnessing the Potential of Innovative STEM Education Programs: Stories of Collaboration, Connectedness and Empowerment." Watch videos to hear from students and educators involved in the Milwaukee project.


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About Philanthropy at AT&T: AT&T Inc. is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2012, more than $131 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs. © 2014 AT&T Intellectual Property. All rights reserved. AT&T, the AT&T logo and all other marks contained herein are trademarks of AT&T Intellectual Property and/or AT&T affiliated companies.


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About The NEA Foundation
The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators' dues, corporate sponsors, and others who support public education initiatives.We partner with education unions, districts, and communities to create powerful, sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. Visit www.neafoundation.org for more information. Find us on Facebook and Twitter, and visit our blog.

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