MidAmerica Industrial Park recently received a $100,000 Google Community Grant through the MidAmerica STEM Alliance to assist areas school districts with their COVID-19 rapid response.
The COVID-19 pandemic had an immediate impact on public schools. Districts quickly shifted to alternative teaching and learning methods to finish out the school year, and online learning was a big part of the solution. While online learning is a viable method, it comes with challenges, especially in rural areas.
MidAmerica works closely with Mayes County school districts year-round as a partner on STEM education efforts. Together with Google, who’s Oklahoma data center is located in the Park, MidAmerica explored options to aid in responding to the districts’ new distance learning challenges.
“We are proud to partner with MidAmerica and school districts across the region to support their distance learning efforts during these challenging times,” Andrew Silvestri, Google’s head of data center policy and community development, said. “We believe Google’s community grant program will reap long-term benefits. As an Oklahoma company, supporting local students now is an investment in the state and our future workforce.”
“When area schools moved online due to COVID-19, the situation really magnified the digital divide locally, and our area schools have been working tirelessly to address the issue,” said David Stewart, CAO of MidAmerica Industrial Park.
The largest portion of the funding will go toward projects that will improve access for area students.
Each district has developed a plan that works best for their specific communities and serves the most students possible. The plans range from transforming school buses to rolling hot spots, meshed network systems and other local hot spots. “Thankfully, the districts have the flexibility to develop plans that best meet the needs of their school and community,” Stewart said.
In addition to the access improvement project, funding was also used to procure and distribute 3,500 inhome STEM kits to all Mayes County students in grades one through five. These kits, from Pitsco Education, provided students an alternative to the typical home-school learning routine. “We think it is important for students to learn with their hands, as well as their minds, to develop critical thinking skills,” said Scott Fry, director of workforce development for the Park and executive director of the MidAmerica STEM Alliance.
“These STEM kits will improve area students’ current educational experience in the midst of this pandemic,” Silvestri said. “Students today need a solid foundation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and by bringing hands-on STEM learning into their homes when they can’t physically go to school, learning is enhanced. Understanding STEM concepts can lead to success across all disciplines.”
“We are so thankful that Google stepped up and provided the resources to make these efforts possible. We will be able to provide learning resources for our students immediately and well into the foreseeable future thanks to their grant,” said Don Raleigh, superintendent of Pryor Public Schools.