Student Pens Tech Grant for Area Elementary School

Published: October 28, 2014 | Author: Jessica Young | Read Time: 3 minutes

What started as a way for Josh Meacham, engineering student at Southern Utah University, to earn a grade soon became a chance for one elementary school to receive the necessary funds to elevate the learning amongst its students.

Horizon Elementary School in St. George, Utah received $4,300 in a grant written by Meacham from 100% for Kids, a foundation for Utah’s credit unions. Meacham had met with the school’s teachers to learn what would be the most effective change in their classrooms, and with a resounding yes, computers were at the top of the list.

 “As a public school with more than 600 students, our technology materials and usage has been severely limited because of our school's budget and the student population,” explained Heidi Murray, fourth grade teacher at Horizon Elementary.  “The limited resources restricted the lessons and activities that we could do with our students.”

Now the school owns 20 laptops that will travel between the third and fourth grade classes for teachers to integrate the technology in their classrooms more seamlessly. Meacham explained that until now fifth graders mostly used the school’s computer lap but now this transportable computer cart will allow hundreds of other students to enhance their learning.

“Because of the minimal time younger students were able to use in the computer lab, they would be so excited about it that teachers were having a difficult time getting their attention,” explained Meacham. “When computers make a common appearance in classrooms students can actually learn how to use them and bringing the computers to them causes even less disruptions.”

Along with bringing computers to classrooms, Meacham is hoping the new technology will have a much broader impact on the children’s lives.

“I am amazed at what young kids can do with technology,” stated Meacham. “By the fourth grade kids can be coding websites and creating videos. Kids need to be taught that computers can be used to learn, not just for play.”

This idea supported by Murray, and her colleagues, explained that by using technology on a daily basis will allow teachers to stretch the students education and abilities within technology.

“It provides them with increased opportunities to research, understand and produce.  What a difference it makes to boost student engagement and build confidence,” commented Murray.

Meacham, a student hoping to become a manufacturing engineer, hopes that through this grant kids will feel empowered to learn more about the sciences, especially at an early age.

He went on to say that though many schools are receiving grants and are being recognized as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) schools, other schools aren’t receiving that recognition and their students are suffering because of the lack of funding and opportunities.

“I hope that this grant will level the playing field for those schools unable to receive STEM distinction,” said Meacham.

Meacham is like many other students focusing their studies on science at SUU and participate in a technical writing class to stimulate growth in communicating to varied audiences on difficult, jargon-filled topics according to Julia Combs, professor of the writing for the sciences course that required Meacham to write a grant.

She said of its purpose, “A person who can successfully persuade another person or organization to open his or her purse strings to fund a project is a good communicator.  This class teaches scientists and writers to communicate technical information to those in their profession and to a lay audience.”

Along with some students successful securing grants for nonprofit organizations, like Horizon Elementary, Combs stated that because of this course students have secured positions at high profile graduate and PhD programs.

One student said after graduating from SUU, “This was, no doubt, the most instrumental component of my graduate school application.  And, can you believe, it got me accepted into all six schools that I applied to.  I've ultimately decided to attend the University of Massachusetts' clinical psychology PhD program."

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