Chevron Aids Marshall County Education Initiatives

File Photo by Drew Parker John Marshall High School teacher Gavin Hartle, standing, assists students Harry Galloway, left, and Ryan Campbell with a computer-based project.

Local students will soon benefit from over $19,000 in funding to supplement growing science, technology, engineering, art and math programs.

Chevron, in partnership with the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, awarded $196,200 in Innovation Grants to 43 southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia classrooms to expand science, technology, engineering, art and math — or STEAM — programming in schools.

Schools in 10 West Virginia counties, including Brooke, Gilmer, Hancock, Harrison, Marshall, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Tucker and Upshur counties, received a total of $104,282 for robotics, math, anatomy and art projects.

John Marshall High School, Center McMechen Elementary School and Washington Lands Elementary School were the Marshall County recipients.

Washington Lands Elementary School received $4,731 for its Extraordinary Design program, including three-dimensional printers, coding programs, circuit explorations and more. John Marshall and Center McMechen received $4,980 each for STEAM Imagination, a program combining traditional science, technology, engineering and math activities with art and design.

John Marshall received an additional $4,980 for “littleBits,” described as pre-engineered plastic bricks which are commonly used in Makerspaces. According to John Marshall Principal Cassandra Porter, the littleBits will be used to supplement general art classes at the school, serving over 200 students each semester.

“When you’re doing STEM, you’re also designing, so it’s a good way to include the art factors into the program,” Porter said. “They focus on problem solving. … Students can put design with their electronics and make that into one project.”

She added the program will reach out to a variety of students.

“All students have to take a fine art to graduate from high school and most of them end up taking Art 1 if they’re not interested in music or theatre. This is going to give those kids who don’t want to just paint or draw an opportunity to use engineering and hands-on skills.”

Washington Lands teacher Julie Sturgill said the programming will benefit students at different levels.

“If our kids go into middle school or high school and are just starting STEM, they won’t be where they need to be, but if they’re already prepared with that background, they can get further,” Sturgill said. “Students who aren’t as book smart but are better hands-on, this is where they get to be successful in front of their peers, which is a big deal.”

Brooke Lightner, a teacher at Center McMechen Elementary, said STEM technology improves several basic academic skills.

“Giving them this hands-on opportunity increases their vocabulary and math skills. It may even give them the chance to excel beyond their peers when they get into older grades.”