VSU receives $140,000 grant to develop concept for a regional STEM-focused middle school

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that Virginia State University (VSU) was awarded $140,000 to begin planning for the establishment of a college laboratory school to improve the capabilities of local school systems to prepare students for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) careers, including in the advanced manufacturing and logistics sectors which are emerging as key economic drivers in the greater Petersburg area.

The proposed STEM Lab Middle School will focus on the preparation of sixth, seventh and eighth grade children for exploration of future STEM careers through an initial collaborative partnership between VSU’s School of Engineering, Science and Technology, and School of Liberal Arts and Education; local public schools systems in the city of Petersburg and the counties of Dinwiddie, Prince George, Surry and Sussex; and business and community partners.

The three broad goals of STEM education are to (1) increase the number of students, especially women and minorities, who pursue advanced degrees and careers in STEM; (2) expand the STEM-capable workforce, while broadening the participation of women and minorities; and (3) increase scientific literacy among all students, regardless of whether they elect to pursue post-secondary education or careers in STEM fields. As an added benefit, the proposed Lab School will provide pre-service teachers enrolled in VSU’s professional education programs with valuable clinical experiences in alternative, innovative instructional methods.

Said Williamson, “Our effort is also aimed at leveraging national and state-level initiatives, such as the federal government’s goal to recruit and train 100,000 new STEM teachers and start 1,000 new STEM-focused schools over the next decade, along with Gov. McDonnell’s ‘Top Jobs’ initiative that seeks to ensure that every Virginia student receives a high quality education with a special emphasis on STEM.”

VSU specifically targeted middle school-aged students for the program. “The VSU STEM lab middle school will convey to parents that the learning experiences their children encounter will influence their beliefs about themselves and expectation for success in related career activities in the future,” said Dr. Delores Greene, Associate Dean for Professional Education Programs in the School of Liberal Arts & Education.  “Our lab school is specifically aimed at the middle school years, as this period represents the time when students develop a firm sense of self, establish and maintain a positive support network.”

The grant period will be from May 1, 2012 – September 15, 2012, and it is intended to support the planning and development process that will enhance consideration of VSU for funding to support implementation of a college/university partnership laboratory school. Receipt of this planning grant does not guarantee subsequent approval of a college/university partnership laboratory school.  Should findings support the development of the STEM Lab Middle School, it is expected that VSU will seek funding for implementation at the conclusion of the planning period.

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