Helios Invests Over $1.4 Million In STEM Education in Tampa Bay
Recognizing the critical role STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education plays in better preparing students for postsecondary education and career success, Helios Education Foundation is investing over $1.4 million in two new Tampa Bay programs focused on teacher quality and content knowledge in STEM in Polk and Citrus counties.
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Through these investments, middle school teachers in Polk County will earn professional development credits toward a graduate certificate in STEM education, and in Citrus County, 6th through 8th Grade teachers will bring real-world applications of math and science into the classroom by teaching students how to analyze local water management issues using math models.
$950,000 in Polk County
The Foundation is investing $950,000 over three years to provide 96 middle school teachers in Polk County with a graduate certificate in Integrative STEM Teaching and Learning. This graduate certificate is being provided in partnership with the University of South Florida-Polytechnic, Polk County Public Schools, Lake Wales Charter School and the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.
Teachers participating in the program will receive 12 graduate credits of professional development in STEM content knowledge, applied problem-based learning, inquiry-based activities, content literacy strategies and performance and standards-based assessments.
$495,000 in Citrus County
As part of providing more teacher professional development opportunities, Helios is investing $495,000 over two years to offer all 6th through 8th Grade math and science teachers in Citrus County the opportunity to increase their knowledge in integrating math, science and computing.
In partnership with Florida State University, Citrus County Public Schools and the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), this program will offer 120 hours of teacher professional development in integrating math and science instruction through real-world applications of water resource management, math modeling through Excel to deepen student understanding of math and science concepts and lesson study teams for STEM teachers.
Teachers participating in this program will learn to use Excel to generate and analyze mathematical models provided by SWFWMD. In applying this knowledge in the classroom, middle school math and science teachers will help students examine water management issues directly relevant to their lives, further underscoring the real-world use of computational science.
"Studies show us that one of the most influential ways to improve student achievement in the classroom is to improve the quality and effectiveness of teachers in those classrooms," said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. "We are equipping middle school teachers with a higher level of content knowledge and teaching skill in STEM, and that combined with ongoing school and classroom initiatives, works to increase student achievement."
Helios is making these funds available through a request for proposals process aimed at generating innovative professional development initiatives for middle school STEM teachers in Tampa Bay. The Foundation received 13 applications from a variety of groups, including higher education institutions, school districts and national organizations, serving an eight-county region of Tampa Bay.
The initiatives serving Polk and Citrus counties met the Foundation's funding requirements by deepening teachers' content knowledge, strengthening effective instructional skills, utilizing engineering design principles and integrating technology into the classroom.