The Tomah Area School District has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity to advance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

The grant will provide the Tomah district with the college- and career-ready resources necessary to expand the district’s STEM programming.

“We are thrilled to be the recipient of this STEM grant money, which will be used to expand design opportunities to all students through integration of more hands-on, relevant learning applications in core content areas.” said Cindy Zahrte, TASD superintendent. “This grant will help us increase the engagement of students in STEM activities and advance our mission of high quality student learning: every child, every day.”

The $250,000 award will allow for the creation of a design lab at Tomah High School. Teachers and students will have access to design software, robotics, 3D printers and augmented and virtual reality.

Zahrte said the lab can be used by many different departments at the high school. For example, a geometry teacher may use the design lab’s 3D modeling stations to reinforce a highly theoretical concept, or an English teacher may bring a fictional story to life by incorporating augmented or virtual reality.

She said when students experience these tools and strategies, they may be more inclined to enroll in formal STEM classes.

The first year of the grant is a planning year, and the focus will be on providing professional development to teachers in the use of design tools and seeking ideas for specific purchases from STEM Advisory Committee members.

The DoDEA awarded $29 million across 36 grants during 2018. The grants will serve more than 166,000 students across 20 states, 66,000 of whom are military-connected. DoDEA’s Education Partnership and Resources division strives to ensure all military-connected K-12 students have access to quality educational opportunities through engagement in partnerships with school districts and professional organizations. The division provides school personnel with resources to increase understanding and awareness related to the challenges faced by military-connected students and families.

TASD has a significant military presence. The Tomah Veterans Administration Medical Center is located within the school district, and the district is also surrounded by Fort McCoy, Volk Field Air National Guard Base and Camp Williams, which is supported by the Wisconsin Army National Guard. Over 3,000 students attend public schools in the district.

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Tomah Journal editor

Steve Rundio is editor of the Tomah Journal. Contact him at 608-374-7785.

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