Regional STEM School Receives $200,000 Golden LEAF Grant

Northeast Academy for Aerospace and Advanced Technologies (NEAAAT) received $200,000 in grant funding from the Golden LEAF Foundation for a project titled Get REAL: Reinventing Education to Accelerate Learning. This is a collaborative project between NEAAAT’s faculty and Elizabeth City State University’s (ECSU) College of Education to increase access to technology, training in project-based learning (PBL), and authentic work experiences for students and educational professionals across the region.

“Golden LEAF is pleased to support NEAAAT and ECSU with funding for this pioneering project which is designed to provide North Carolina’s educators access to training in project-based and technology-rich instruction to prepare students for regional career opportunities requiring skills in STEM and technology applications in the workplace,” said Mark Sorrells, Golden LEAF Senior Vice President. “These sectors represent the fastest growing opportunities for high-wage employment across the state and nation. The collaboration between NEAAAT and ECSU will provide an innovative training environment for pre- and in-service teachers to prepare students for college and good paying careers.”

The grant will provide training for NEAAAT staff through site visits to some of the most innovative schools across the state and country. The first visit will take place on March 1st with an all staff field trip to three innovative schools in Raleigh; Exploris Middle School, Wake NC State STEM Early College, and Research Triangle High School. Coach Linda Nelson, a certified reading specialist and math teacher at NEAAAT, looks forward to the site visits and “getting one-on-one experiences with schools that are already successfully implementing a PBL model of learning.”

Based on extensive research and information collected during site visits, the grant states, “NEAAAT and ECSU will design initial school-based experiences for ECSU pre-service teachers, and ECSU will offer advanced mentoring workshops to NEAAAT teachers to equip them with a toolkit to support ECSU undergraduate students in NEAAAT classrooms.”

The grant funding will also provide Chromebooks and other digital technologies that support digital PBL learning for students and teachers, including pre-service and in-service teachers that work with NEAAAT through ECSU’s educational program. Having access to the same technological tools as licensed teachers gives students in educational programs a chance to explore and investigate teaching and learning with real-world tools.

According to Andrew Harris, NEAAAT’s CEO, “the Get REAL program will bring student-teachers into a real classroom environment quickly. The grant will help educators explore the ways technology can be used to enhance interdisciplinary PBL through immersive, work-based experiences. Facilitated work-based experiences in NEAAAT’s lab school/demonstration site environment will provide pre-service teachers early exposure to technology-enhanced, interdisciplinary PBL beginning as early as the sophomore year.”

A portion of the funding will go to purchasing audio and video recording equipment. In the final phase of the grant, trained faculty will model innovative PBL practices in their classrooms.

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