Students returning to Newport Grammar School Thursday will find some new additions to their classrooms.
Over the summer, two dedicated teachers pioneered efforts to bring a STEM program (that stands for science, technology engineering and math) to all first through eighth grade students.
"We have had parents that have transferred their children in here say they had heard about our STEM academy," said Newport Grammar Principal Sandra Burchette. "I expect this is going to motivate and simulate children to want to go more in to the sciences."
As part of the program, the kids will spend one class period a week immersed in hands-on activities that are intended to enrich their understanding of STEM subjects. As a rural district with more than half of the student body on free or reduced lunch plans, interacting with technology is an opportunity their students might otherwise not get.
Two classrooms have been converted to STEM centers, equipped with lab desks, microscopes, and iPads. A $10,000 dollar grant provided some of the start up money, another $5,000 came from donations from community members and businesses.
"We have some very bright students," said Tammy Francis of Smoky Mountain Home Healthcare, one of the program's sponsors. "They deserve it."
Burchette said they'd hoped to raise $35,000 to begin, but came in closer to $15,000. Teachers say they're thankful the school board had the courage to move forward with the plan regardless.
"We're still needing a few things," said Burchette. "But it's so worthwhile."