EIR InProgress: i3 G2ROW STEM

Young participants in the G2ROW STEM project in Nashville.

The EIR grant program funds hundreds of organizations throughout the country, all of whom are engaged in forward-thinking, even boundary-pushing work. The InProgress interview series conveys the breadth and excitement of our diverse grantees by letting them explain their work in their own words. These aren’t success stories, exactly, but portraits of ongoing work, with all the inspiration and obstacles that implies.

For this installment we hear from Deanna Privette, i3 STEM Grant Coordinator for Metro Nashville Public Schools, which holds a grant for the i3 G2ROW STEM project.

 

EIR: What kind of work is i3 G2ROW STEM doing with its i3 grant?

DEANNA PRIVETTE: i3 G2ROW STEM offers extending learning opportunities for hundreds of underrepresented, underserved grade students in grades 5 through 8 across seven middle schools in Metro Nashville Public Schools. The goal of the program is to grow awareness of STEM, as well as to generate students’ interest pursuing STEM careers, helping to fill local industry needs. Each school offers after-school programming two days a week, on one Saturday per month, and in a three-week summer camp.

In the after-school program, teachers facilitate STEM investigations through an interdisciplinary lens focused on Engineering and Project-Based Learning. Saturday events connect to the after-school investigations, providing students with field trip opportunities to businesses and universities to build college/career awareness. The themed summer camp focuses on STEM activities and field trips connected to the activities. This approach empowers students to be self-directed in their learning as they engage in sustained inquiry through the process of questioning, evaluating evidence, and solving real-world problems.

EIR: How far along are you in your grant?

PRIVETTE: We are currently beginning year four of our five-year grant.

EIR: What’s been the biggest challenge?

PRIVETTE: Our biggest challenge to date is the competing after school events and programs. During the school year, after-school sports, drama, and non-academic social clubs tend to draw more underrepresented populations of students than the academic programs. With i3 G2ROW STEM, it has been important to incorporate hands-on activities taught by dynamic teachers to help keep students’ interest high. This ignites excitement in students with a variety of academic and emotional challenges to explore additional educational activities that require critical thinking and problem-solving skills when they have been involved with academics all day, are mentally drained, and often find basic concepts challenging. 

EIR: What’s an unexpected lesson you’ve learned so far?

PRIVETTE: The most unexpected lesson thus far is the impact the i3 STEM program is having within the school setting even though it takes place in an after-school environment. The high-stakes testing during the school day doesn’t exist in the after-school world and eliminates much of the stress teachers have on trying new and innovative strategies. In the past, teachers have been apprehensive to incorporate these strategies in their daily classrooms due to curriculum requirements and content that must be covered prior to the state tests.

But teachers in the i3 program are coached and trained in interdisciplinary, inquiry-based teaching strategies to use during programming. By honing their craft after school, teachers now realize the academic impact those strategies have on learning and integrate them into their regular classroom setting. Because of what they've learned by being a part of the program, teachers now have the confidence and understanding of how to include these strategies in their daily classrooms. Therefore, the impact has not only positively affected students in the program but teachers and their classroom students as well.

Watch a video about the G2ROW STEM program on YouTube.