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Southwest School Corp. received $25,000 grant to further S.T.E.M. education


America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, called on local farmers to help nominate rural schools to receive about $2.3 million in grants to enhance their science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) programs.

Farmers answered the call, and as a result, the Grow Rural Education program awarded the Southwest School Corp. in Sullivan County with a $25,000 grant.

“We are really excited about this,” Superintendent Chris Stitzle said. “We will use this to expand our S.T.E.M. program and increase the number of classes that include S.T.E.M. projects.”

Southwest School Corp. will use the Grow Rural Education program funds to bring the world of S.T.E.M. to all Kindergarten through eighth-grade students. SWSC teachers will be learning about and using S.T.E.M. technologies and lessons to provide engaging, hands-on learning that is relevant and accessible for all students. These meaningful learning activities will also provide students the opportunity to cultivate skills, such as problem-solving, teamwork, intuitive thinking and communication, desired by employers.

“This is exactly what we need to get this off the ground,” Chad Ledune, the Sullivan Middle School and Sullivan High School science teacher, said. “Kids are very interested in getting their hands on technology.”

All activities within kindergarten through eighth-grade S.T.E.M. project supports SWSC's mission to prepare all students to be career-ready, responsible students who are equipped to compete and prosper in the world in which they will live and work.

“We currently have some STEM that includes problem-solving skills and critical thinking,” Ledune said. “We can use this to get pieces of equipment as our critical thinking too. This will also allow us to provide robotics at a way younger age.”

To qualify for a Grow Rural Education grant, farmers nominated a public school district to compete for a merit-based grant of either $10,000 or $25,000. Nominated school districts then submitted a grant application that outlined how they would use the funds to enhance their students’ S.T.E.M. education. A panel of qualified teachers review the applications and narrow it down to the finalists. The program’s Farmer Advisory Council, consisting of approximately 30 farmer leaders from across the country, then select the winning school districts.

“America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education is a special program because farmers play a key role in nominating local schools and evaluating and selecting the grant winners,” Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund president, said. “Each year, countless school winners tell us that the Grow Rural Education grants make a positive impact in their classrooms. For some, the results are evident in student test scores, and many educators say their students are more excited about S.T.E.M. courses.”

At SWSC, they plan to use this money for things such as community gardens and virtual reality field trips for students.

“S.T.E.M. is so important for our students to learn more about and this grant will allow us to provide more opportunities to our students,” Stitzle said.

Since Grow Rural Education began in 2011, it has awarded more than $16 million to more than 900 school districts in rural communities across the United States.

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