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3M Foundation grant allows District 622 to grow STEM program

The North St. Paul-Maplewood-Oakdale School District will be taking its Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) program to the next level thanks to two grants totaling $350,000 from the 3M Foundation.

In December, the 3M Foundation Board approved District 622’s request to fund a comprehensive K-12 STEM program, including equipment for Fabrication Labs (FabLabs) at both North and Tartan high schools.

The funding will allow District 622 to expand its successful elementary STEM program and incorporate new classes and new opportunities at both the middle and high schools.

Included in the $350,000 is a $66,000 grant from Project Lead The Way (PLTW), the nation’s leading STEM program. Funds from the PLTW grant will support the implementation of the middle school STEM curriculum, including the purchase of materials and equipment that will be used in the hands-on, activity-, project- and problem-based courses that are part of the PLTW curriculum.

Beginning next fall, students in grades six and seven will all take the PLTW Modeling and Design course. Eighth grade students will also have the opportunity to take this course as an elective. Additional PLTW courses, such as Automation and Robotics and the Magic of Electrons, will be added in subsequent years.

At the high school level, an engineering focus will be added to the required ninth grade science course during the 2014-2015 school year. The District will also begin the process of exploring options for creating FabLabs at both North and Tartan high schools.

FabLabs allow students to use hands-on, state-of-the-art technology including 3D printers, laser engravers, and plasma routers. In fact, $200,000 of the grant funds from 3M will be used to purchase FabLab equipment for the two high schools.

Expanding the STEM program district-wide also means additional professional development for teachers. This summer, District science teachers will begin training on curriculum for the new courses. The training is being provided through a partnership with the University of Minnesota’s STEM Education Center.

"In just one year of implementing the STEM curriculum at our elementary schools we have seen incredible academic growth for our students in the area of science," said Supt. Patty Phillips. "I am thrilled that the 3M Foundation is providing us with a way to extend that success to all students."