Grant Funding in Action: Robotics, Zoology & STEM, Oh My!

The Title IV-A (Student Support & Academic Enrichment) grant focuses on three areas: well-rounded educational activities, safe and healthy students, and effective use of technology. Exciting news: Congress increased the Title IV-A federal appropriation for schools from $400 million for FY18 to $1.1 billion for FY19. This means more money for schools to improve school safety, healthy practices for students, technology, professional development for instructional staff and leaders, enrichment activities for students, and so much more. 2018 was the first year I had the privilege of working with a school to receive and manage these funds appropriately, and next year we will continue to improve student learning outcomes even more.

Omega Alpha Academy (OAA) is a rural K-12 charter school in Douglas, Arizona. I love working with them because instructional staff and administrators are passionate, skilled, and dedicated. Students are polite, enthusiastic, hardworking, and instructional staff hold high expectations for their achievement. Through Title IV-A funding, they have started weekly afterschool Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) enrichment activities. Instructional staff, administrators, assessment staff, science teachers, Instructional Leadership Team members, English Language learning staff, and the Special Education Coordinator (also a teacher) are involved in this STEM program, making it truly multidisciplinary. The theme for these activities is zoology and robotics, but the STEM activities incorporate all content areas. Older students naturally mentor and support their younger peers during these STEM events, and teamwork skills are practiced and essential to successful scientific implementation. Students are divided into five different groups: Panthers, Tigers, Pandas, Wildcats, and Triceratops.

Teacher: Why don’t we have webbing between our fingers and toes like frogs? Student: Well, I think babies are born with the webbing, but doctors cut it out. Priceless! This conversation occurred during one of the STEM afterschool activities which was a follow-up to the previous week’s frog dissecting lesson, where 53 students and numerous parents were involved. The lesson involved learning about adaptation, surface area, watching frog leg muscles in action jumping and swimming on videos, creating frog leg muscles using multi-color play dough, identifying muscle names, and working with frog foot webbing replica manipulatives. These replicas consisted of four popsicle sticks representing the frog foot with wax paper in between, and four popsicle sticks without wax paper. Students went outside and used both replicas to demonstrate how frogs swim in tubs of water, racing to see how much water could be moved into another tub with each replica. They excitedly discovered the valuable adaptation of webbing in frog feet, and why humans don’t need this webbing.

Other STEM activities include studying wild dog robots, robotic flying birds, building robots, keeping a scientific reflective journal, Cornell note taking, using the scientific method, and showcasing an individual or team STEM project. The OAA STEM course description is as follows. “Our students will have the opportunity to study the origin and development of animal species, the habits and behavior of animals, and the interaction between animals and their environment. They will also conduct research to learn how animal diseases develop and how traits are passed from generation to generation. They will study the physical characteristics of animals, animal behaviors, and the impacts humans have on wildlife and natural habitats. Our goal is to study the influence on behavior of specific animal societies by integrating computational mechatronic devices (robots) into those societies.”

Find out more about Title IV-A here. Resources from the Arizona Department of Education Title IV-A funding can be found here. With all the negativity surrounding public education and beliefs that federal grants make no impact on student achievement in our country, kudos to Omega Alpha Academy for proving those beliefs wrong.


What stories of Grant Funding in Action (#Grantswork) do you have to share? We’d love to hear! You can also see more of the stories our team has shared about the projects that they have been able to see personally in their communities for Grant Funding in Action stories here.

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