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School district gets $20K grant for STEAM kits

Aiming to help students make up for lost time, the Lawrence Township Education Foundation presented a $20,389.80 grant to school district officials for special STEAM kits for elementary school students.

The grant, which was presented to the Lawrence Township Public Schools Board of Education at its Aug. 25 meeting, will cover the costs of buying 1,020 at-home STEAM kits for students.

STEAM is the abbreviation for science, technology, engineering, art and math. STEAM projects encourage student to be curious and creative, and to become problem-solvers, said Karen Faiman, executive director of the nonprofit Lawrence Township Education Foundation.

The STEAM for 21st Century Learners grant was funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Faiman said, as she presented an oversized cardboard “check” to Superintendent of Schools Ross Kasun.

Faiman thanked Kristin Burke, the school district’s STEM supervisor for grades pre-K to 6, for being “extremely innovative and being open to working with me to come up with great project ideas.”

“Over the past 15 months, students have had limited exposure to STEAM activities in school due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Faiman said. “Students have been in school for far less time since March 2020, and due to new socially distant protocols, they have not been sharing materials or working together on STEAM projects.”

As a result, there has been far less exposure to those types of activities in the classroom, she said.

To counter the lack of exposure to STEAM projects in school, the district will purchase at-home STEAM kits for all students in grades 3-5. Kits will also be given to 150 of the district’s most vulnerable and at-risk students in grades K-2, Faiman said.

The students will take the STEAM kits home, so they can work on STEAM activities and projects with their families, she said. Each kit contains math project ideas, design challenges, game boards and cards aimed at inspiring curiosity and exploration.

“The kits reflect a project-based learning approach, which allows students to engage in design-thinking processes across multiple content areas at one time,” Faiman told the school board.

Faiman said the foundation wants to give “a big shout-out to Bristol-Myers Squibb for their constant support of us and their out-of-the-box thinking for the at-home materials (in the STEAM kits).”

The Lawrence Township Education Foundation, which was incorporated in 1992, raises money from individuals, local businesses, corporations and foundations for programs that benefit Lawrence Township public school students. It has awarded more than $4.2 million in grants to educators.

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