COVID-19 Grants Help STEM Programs Adapt
By Belle Cantor, Senior Program Officer, Education and Oleya Pearsall, Program Associate, Scholarships
Fields of study in science, technology, engineering and math—commonly known as STEM—provide students with technical knowledge as well as critical problem-solving and team-building skills essential for tomorrow’s workforce. Funding from OCF helped students around the state continue critical STEM learning activities during the pandemic.
Oregon’s 13 regional STEM Hubs connect students to STEM experiences early to ignite students’ passions and interest in these fields. In 2020, as educators scrambled to adapt to pandemic-induced remote learning, OCF provided grants to help Oregon’s STEM Hubs continue to serve students in new ways. This funding was an extension of OCF’s longstanding relationships with STEM Hubs as we work together to help close gaps in opportunity.
In July 2020, OCF invited STEM Hubs to apply for one-time grants, prioritizing hubs serving students most marginalized in education and adversely impacted by the pandemic: students of color, students from low-income families, students from under resourced rural communities, and girls (because they are underrepresented in STEM).
OCF awarded 11 hubs approximately $20,000 each to pivot to on-line and hybrid education for fall 2020. The most common request was for funding to create, package and deliver hands-on kits that enabled students and families to participate in hands-on STEM activities while learning from home — helping balance screen time learning.
One example, the Greater Oregon STEM Hub (GO STEM) in Eastern Oregon, used the funds to provide free, high quality STEM kits to 2,000 fourth grade students. Each student received three STEM kits with instructions in English and Spanish, and all necessary materials for completing the lessons. Students used the kits to build parachutes, wooden vehicles with sails, and straw structures that let students explore a variety of designs.
The grants also fulfilled remote learning technology needs. A couple of the hubs requested funding for an Oregon Connections license, which enabled students to connect with industry professionals through Zoom. Another hub received support for a technology coach accessible by local teachers to adapt teaching methods to remote learning. Others requested funding for networking and sharing online lesson plans.
In a changing, complex world, it’s important that Oregon youth are prepared to solve problems, make sense of information, and know how to gather and evaluate evidence to make decisions. These grants helped Oregon students continue to experience STEM learning even during the disruption of the pandemic. It’s a step toward helping all Oregon children access quality learning.