City schools receive grant for RCR

By Jeff Linville - [email protected]

Mount Airy City Schools is deepening its partnership with Richard Childress Racing, thanks to a $169,650 grant.

The district received the grant recently from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

The RCR Future Drivers Project will engage students in sixth to 12th grades in relevant learning experiences focused on engineering, manufacturing, quality control and analytics, according to the school district. This project is possible due to the high school’s growing partnership with RCR, which is projected to expand over the next three years.

The collaborative project with RCR began three years ago when Dr. Eric Warren, RCR director of competition and a Mount Airy native, visited the school district to speak at convocation. He felt passionately that students in the schools should be exposed to engineering at an earlier age to better understand the connection between science and the real world. Mount Airy High School students are now interning weekly at RCR and learning from the staff.

The project is guided by three primary goals: 1) Increase student enthusiasm for science and mathematics; 2) Increase student achievement by providing a learning environment with technology, STEAM knowledge, and project-based learning; and 3) Motivate students to pursue STEAM career pathways.

The partnership will aim to include populations in the STEAM field such as female students and certain ethnic/racial communities not frequently represented.

The Burroughs Wellcome Foundation has focused on engaging children in science since 1994. The Student Science Enrichment Program provides more than $3 million annually to support creative science education activities for primary and secondary students in North Carolina.

The organization said, “We are convinced that all children, regardless of their future career path, need basic science literacy to participate fully in civic life. We believe that the best method for achieving the goal of science literacy is to get students involved in the scientific process and let them do what comes naturally: ask questions and participate in hands-on activities and experiments that convey basic scientific principles.”

In July, a local educator, Shane Castevens, took a trip to Singapore to study that area’s teaching methods, thanks to foundation funding.

“The Burroughs Wellcome Grant will provide a great opportunity for Mount Airy City Schools to further develop their STEAM program,” said Warren. “The program at MACS continues to give students a unique opportunity to learn about STEAM careers first hand by providing real-world experiences with engineers in those fields. We are excited at RCR to make an impact on the lives of the students at MACS, and the Burroughs Wellcome Grant will expand our ability to reach more students and continue to grow the program for the future.”

This grant will fund after-school RCR Future Drivers Clubs for Mount Airy Middle School and Mount Airy High School.

This focus on problem-based learning and engineering will engage students in exciting tasks with mentoring from engineers. The program will also include visits by students and staff to RCR to learn about the careers in the organization such as graphic design, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering and race car driving. Summer programs for Future Drivers will be provided so all students can engage in problem-solving, simulations, and science education. This grant provides students opportunities they would not have otherwise.

“We are so fortunate to have such great partners as Richard Childress Racing and Burroughs Wellcome Fund,” said Dr. Kim Morrison, city superintendent.

“RCR wants to create a pipeline for students from school to college to a NASCAR career and BWF focuses on science education for students. Bringing these two partners together is a great way for the students of Mount Airy City Schools to benefit from a critical focus on science education, real-world learning, and motivating students to be successful. Our district is committed to growing all students, helping them think critically, innovatively solve problems, and be lifelong learners.”

Michigan trip

Thanks to a partnership with Richard Childress Racing, leaders from Mount Airy City Schools were recently invited to Dow Chemical in Midland, Michigan, to brainstorm and collaborate with chemists, engineers and research scientists in order to help advance and build a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum for educators.

During the trip to Midland, school employees worked directly with Dow employees who volunteer on the Dow Ambassador Program. Through this program, Dow employees are building a STEM curriculum for educators. These turn-key modules can be taken directly into schools and allow Dow employees to go out in the world to work directly with teachers and students. These kits help students gain experiences with STEM through project-based learning and hands-on activities. MACS employees were able to work alongside field experts as they created modules.

“As a district, MACS is always thankful for business partnerships with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics industries,” said Morrison.

“This is a growing market and our students need to be prepared for these jobs,” she said. “This partnership allows industry and schools to work together to provide skill-based curriculum in real-world settings for our students as they attend school. We believe the STEM curriculum developed will be some of the strongest curriculum available to educators.”

By Jeff Linville

[email protected]

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

Reach Jeff at 415-4692.

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