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South Side, Nancy Miles recieve STEM grant from TVA

Nancy Miles TVA Grant

South Side Elementary and 4th-grade teacher Nancy Miles were awarded a $3,500 grant from the Tennessee Valley Authority, in partnership with Bicentennial Volunteers, Inc., a TVA retiree organization, to develop science, technology, engineering, and math education projects to help spark student interest in future careers in STEM-related fields.

Miles received money for a project she calledRooted in our History: Tree Street Arboretum STEM Exploration Kits”. Miles said that the primary purpose of the project is to instill student curiosity and provide opportunities for ecosystem research within the recently certified arboretum developed by the Tree Streets neighborhood organization. The project vision intends to strengthen the partnership established between the school and the community.

The arboretum is walkable, making it an accessible outdoor classroom giving our PK-5 students a chance to get outdoors and explore nature and over 80 species of trees identified with markers throughout the arboretum. Because this project is linked to the neighborhood arboretum, the accessibility of learning experiences will be available to all students as they walk and explore the local ecosystem.  

The STEM backpacks she created have a variety of observation and technology tools that will allow students of all ages and abilities to observe and explore the arboretum’s identified tree species along with the animal species (birds, mammals, insects, etc.) that interact with trees. The tools and activities will aid students in developing skill sets, such as collaboration, critical thinking and demonstration of learning; all of which are 21st-century skills. Early vocational awareness through exploration of careers in the areas of botany, horticulture, and environmental conservation will be achieved. Learners from marginalized groups (girls, students of color, or low-socioeconomic backgrounds) will be exposed to STEM careers as they apply engineering and scientific skills. Students will have opportunities to learn from botanists and wildlife biologists from nearby ETSU and TN Wildlife Resources Agency, further enhancing knowledge about STEM careers. 

The resources requested in this project are intended to support student learning in science, technology, and engineering. Funds from this grant will equip four STEM backpacks with observation and exploration tools for observation, research, and demonstration of new knowledge. Tools include nature guidebooks and informational texts about forest ecosystems and related careers, magnifying glasses, binoculars, iPads, GoPro cameras, Apple pencils, writing materials, and clipboards. Learning modules will be developed across grades and STEM content areas to support student understanding of the arboretum ecosystem and students will earn their Junior Botanist certification during their explorations. Activities within these modules will offer students opportunities to understand organisms’ life cycles and acquire an understanding of how organisms depend upon one another for survival within an ecosystem. The technology tools (cameras, iPads, and Apple pencils) requested will allow students to visually capture their observations, creating visual representations of their learning, research various tree and animal species, and explore STEM careers such as botany, forestry, and horticulture. The technology tools will supply students with the ability to create a digital repository of knowledge about the arboretum, supporting the website created by the Tree Streets Neighborhood organization. To further enhance the learning experience using these resources, students will be challenged to develop solutions to ensure the arboretum and animals species that live within it are appreciated and protected.

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