One local school has been given a rare opportunity to enrich the lives of their students as we move towards two decades in this new millenium.
The Garrison School off Michigan Avenue is one of just 25 elementary and middle schools in Illinois named recipients of 3-year grants in the STEM Fusion Program, through the 2020-21′ year, awarded through the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, or IMSA. This immersive experience for teachers and learning encouragement for students was developed as part of the state of Illinois’s bicentennial celebrations.
With these grants, the Garrison School will be able to give select teachers the opportunity to learn from the Illinois Math and Science Academy staff and tour their school and lab facilities. These grants also offer students in-depth opportunities to improve in math, science, and technology and potentially pursue STEM-related careers. Many things were evaluated to select the 25 final schools, including current initiatives and financial hardships.
Rhonda Massey is the Principal at the Garrison School. Massey says she found the grant by happenstance, and that the timing fits perfectly with a planned school theme for next year.
“When we applied for the STEM grant, it actually started with one of my teachers getting another grant to do some STEM things with us. We’re going to have a robot theme next year. And then I saw this grant, and it fell right in with what we needed. They provide little kits for each one of the kids to work with, and training and professional development to the teachers. So it’s something that we feel we can offer to our kids that they don’t typically get.”
According to Garrison’s principal, language arts is the strongest in the school’s curriculum. These grants allow Massey and her staff to make compound improvements for the future.
“We’ve really focused on our language arts program. Our hope is, by exploring these three years of opportunity and getting the training through IMSA and the grant, that we can broaden our approach to math and science and engineering. It’s also suppose to have a future career-based component. So what we’re hoping is: once we get the foundation laid, we’re going to be able to carry it on, curriculum-wise, by figuring out how we can extend it through time with professional development money we have in Four Rivers.”
A select group of Garrison teacher representatives are invited as part of the grant to the IMSA campus in Aurora. Massey hopes these teachers will begin brainstorming while at IMSA.
“I will pick staff to go to IMSA to do training, so they’re gonna go up to Aurora, which is kind of nice because they’re going to see the labs and maybe get an idea of different things we can do in our school setting.”
The Garrison School serves nineteen school districts across the region. These communities are located in Brown, Calhoun, Cass, Greene, Macoupin, Morgan, Pike and Scott counties.