News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 1, 2013

$450K grant to help Vigo students in STEM fields

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Next school year, Vigo County School Corp. middle school students may be learning about such topics as nanotechnology, biodegradable packaging and medical professions, thanks to a $450,000 state grant.

The school district, working with several partners, was one of seven districts in the state to receive a math and science partnership grant from the Indiana Department of Education.

The three-year grant has a STEM (science, technology, engineering/math) focus. It includes an intensive summer institute for 50 middle school teachers provided by Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology faculty.

“We’re fortunate to have Rose-Hulman take the lead in the staff development,” said Karen Goeller, VCSC deputy superintendent. “With their expertise, they bring the [academic] standards to life.”

The middle school teachers, in addition to taking what they’ve learned back to their own students, also will work with elementary teachers in the summer Math Magic, Writing and Reading Wonders Program. They’ll collaborate on STEM subjects and include science topics in writing instruction.

To succeed in an information-based, highly technological society, “our students need to develop their capabilities in STEM to levels much beyond what was considered acceptable in the past,” Goeller said.

Technology is present in almost every aspect of daily life, and as the workplace changes, STEM knowledge and skills grow in importance for many workers, she said.

The grant and related activities “will provide an opportunity for middle school  and elementary students to be exposed to STEM areas, so they can think about future careers,” Goeller said.

The partnership involves the school district, Rose-Hulman, Indiana State University, the Vigo County Education Foundation and Partners Advancing Literacy Skills.

Middle school teachers will learn about ways to incorporate nanotechnology, biodegradable packaging, medical professions and possibly motor sports into their classes, said Pat Carlson, Rose-Hulman faculty member. College faculty look forward to the summer workshops and working with middle school teachers, she said.

Rose-Hulman faculty tend to do more project-based learning, and “I think young people like that,” Carlson said.

Workshops will incorporate Indiana Academic and Common Core standards.

During the school year, Rose-Hulman staff will do follow-up consulting with the middle school teachers, including helping them incorporate writing into the STEM subjects, which is part of the new Common Core standards.

The grant is important for 21st Century skills and career preparation, Carlson said. STEM knowledge is important even for those who don’t plan to pursue those fields.

Everyone needs a basic understanding of these areas to be informed voters and to understand projects that might involve public funding, Carlson said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or