In a remarkable stride towards fostering STEM education, the Chandler Education Foundation (CEF) recently announced the awarding of two $5,000 grants to Andersen Junior High and Willis Junior High. This generous support, facilitated by Northrup Grumman, aims to enhance science education with hands-on, career-focused resources and programs. Jason Prichard, a dedicated 7th and 8th-grade science teacher at one of the beneficiary schools, Willis Junior High, spearheaded the grant request, outlining the pivotal role these funds will play in transforming the educational landscape for his students.
Mr. Prichard, with 23 years of experience in science education, understands the importance of practical, applied learning experiences. In his funding request, he emphasized the unique challenges and opportunities presented by his ethnically and socioeconomically diverse student body. The school, situated in one of Chandler's oldest and economically challenged communities, serves approximately 900 students, 60% of whom qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
Too often, science classes focus on theoretical concepts leaving students without an understanding of how class learnings connect to the real world. This can impact students' interest in, or even understanding of, potential careers in scientific fields. One of the top priorities for Chandler is workforce development and getting kids excited about careers in STEM is one way to address that.
With the granted funds, Mr. Prichard plans to establish a dedicated biotechnology lab equipped with cutting-edge tools such as a minipcr machine, electrophoresis kits, and other essential equipment. The lab will provide students with a unique opportunity to delve into the intricacies of biotechnology, exploring polymerase chain reactions, electrophoresis, genetic identification, genetic modification, inheritance, and various biotechnology lab techniques.
Jennifer Hewitt, Executive Director of the Chandler Education Foundation, expressed enthusiasm for the project, stating, "We believe in empowering educators like Mr. Prichard to create innovative and inspiring learning environments. These biotechnology labs will not only enhance the scientific literacy of students but also open doors to potential careers in this rapidly advancing field."
The introduction of the biotechnology lab aligns with Mr. Prichard's broader goal of fostering scientific literacy and curiosity among his students. By providing hands-on experience with advanced scientific equipment, students can gain a deeper understanding of genetic technology and its real-world applications. The hope is that this exposure will spark interest and inspire future scientists and professionals in the field of biotechnology.
In the words of Mr. Prichard, "My primary goals are to get students to ask questions, think critically, scientifically, and creatively, and be literate in science so they can make informed decisions when presented with scientific claims." The biotechnology lab will serve as a catalyst for achieving these goals, empowering students to actively participate in the scientific inquiry process.
The Chandler Education Foundation has met with school leadership and the science department staff at both recipient schools to discuss the programs and brainstorm opportunities for collaboration to amplify the impact of the funds. More details on the programs and the response from students will be available in the Spring. Through initiatives like these, CEF and its partners, like Northrup Grumman how to contribute to the development of a scientifically literate and curious generation ready to tackle the challenges of the future.