ISBE Grant to Be Used for John Mills After-School STEAM Opportunities

John Mills student at work in class

John Mills Elementary School will be offering increased after-school programming in science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) thanks to a grant of more than $150,000 from the Illinois State Board of Education. (District 401 photo by Dave Porreca)

District 401 has received a grant of more than $150,000 from the Illinois State Board of Education to be used for increasing access to science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) programming for girls and low-income students.

The District will use the money — a total of $153,627.90 — to enhance after-school STEAM offerings at John Mills Elementary School.

"I was excited to pursue the grant because of the possibilities it allows which we would otherwise have been unable to offer,” said Mr. Aaron Celmer, D401 Director for Instructional Technology. “We will now be able to provide practical, hands-on exposure to STEAM technology and concepts that elementary students are traditionally underexposed to.”

The District intends to host after-school sessions for John Mills students from grades K-5. The sessions will include laser woodworking, LEGO engineering and robotics coding. 

Said Mr. Celmer: “We are working carefully to select age-appropriate hardware that includes a robust education curriculum to ensure our students are learning while having the opportunity to work with things that are very cool!"

To encourage girls to pursue potential careers in STEAM, 80 percent of the seats will be reserved for female students during the initial enrollment phase. Enrollment will then open up for any John Mills K-5 students interested in participating, space permitting.

Details about the program, including when it will start and how students can enroll, will be released as they become finalized over the course of the current school year.

District 401’s grant was part of $1.1 million awarded by ISBE to eight school districts around the state. The grants, funded by a special scratch-off ticket from the Illinois Lottery, support the integration of hands-on STEAM programming into the curricular and extracurricular offerings of Illinois schools.

“There are more STEAM job openings than there are skilled candidates to fill them,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala in a press release announcing the grants.

“For all students, regardless of what career they want to pursue, STEAM learning environments foster creativity, build problem-solving skills, and immerse our students in new settings that expand their social-emotional and reasoning growth.”

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