CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) – The Illinois State Board of Education recently awarded eight Illinois school districts, including two in central Illinois, grants to increase access to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) programming for girls and low-income students.
The two central Illinois school districts are Rantoul City School District 137 and Paris Union School District 95.
Rantoul, awarded just over $91,000, plans to use the money to purchase virtual reality goggles, digital cameras and photo-editing software; new culturally diverse STEAM-centered books for the classroom and the district’s “hallway libraries;” and professional development for STEAM teachers. The district also plans to use the money to start a “Sisters in Science” after school club.
Paris, awarded almost $188,000, plans to expand access to STEAM programming by hosting summer camps and offering after-school opportunities, bring in female STEAM mentors to discuss career opportunities with students and partner with local businesses and community organizations.
The grants, funded by a special scratch-off ticket sold by the Illinois Lottery, support the integration of hands-on STEAM programming into school curriculums, as well as professional learning for educators to strengthen their STEAM teaching practices. The grants also support career-connected experiences that build students’ knowledge of the skills required to excel in STEAM careers.
“There are more STEAM job openings than there are skilled candidates to fill them. Expanding the STEAM pipeline not only benefits underrepresented students and communities but also the businesses looking to hire more talent and the economy as a whole,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen Ayala. “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.”
Assistant Illinois House majority leader Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago) also spoke of the impact the grants will have on students.
“The $1.1 million in funding from the STEAM Grant Program will help prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s innovators,” said Assistant House Majority Leader Jaime Andrade (D-Chicago). “We need that innovation not just to fill all the currently available STEAM-related jobs, but also the thousands of jobs to come thanks to the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act and the electric vehicle incentive packaged passed into law earlier this year.”