ADAMS CENTER — Two South Jefferson Central School District teachers received a $25,000 check to enhance their school’s STEM curriculum during a pep rally at the school Friday afternoon.
Amid a sea of black and gold and nearly deafening applause from hundreds of students, Anthony Cronk and William Stowell, technology and agriculture education teachers, respectively, accepted the check from Lisa and Angela Porter of Porterdale Farms, one of two farms that nominated South Jefferson for the grant from America’s Farmers Grow Rural Education.
The program is sponsored by the Bayer Fund to enhance science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculums in schools across the nation. Grow Rural Education has given more than $18 million in grants to over 1,000 rural public-school districts since 2011.
To be eligible to apply for the competitive grant, of which only five were awarded across New York this year, schools must first be nominated by local farmers like the Porters.
“We all eat, and so agricultural education is so important,” Mrs. Porter said. “We have a wonderful staff with Mr. Stowell and Mr. Cronk and we just want to make sure that the kids have the absolute best tools possible to be able to learn about where their food and other products come from and how to use them most effectively.”
This is the second time in three years that South Jefferson High School has won the $25,000 grant, according to Mr. Cronk, who has been teaching at the school for 14 years. The school used the funds to enhance its Agriculture and Technology classes by purchasing a Wood-Mizer LT15 sawmill, chainsaws with chainsaw safety equipment, a Saw Trax 1064 panel saw, and the UF-25H Universal Fabricator.
South Jefferson plans to use the equipment for lessons on milling, metal bending, and technology involved in cutting and milling lumber.
“It’s important because we’re raising a nation where our students sometimes lack the basic skills to be able to do kinetic things, things that you can touch that’s not a tablet,” Mr. Cronk said. “So it’s important to expose them to other areas and other careers that are more hands on.”
The five other school districts in the state also awarded grants included the Elba Central School District, the Friendship Central School District, the Oakfield-Alabama Central School District, the Remsen Central School District, and the York Central School District.
More than 550 applications were received, with 142 schools across the United States being awarded grants of either $10,000 or $25,000 this year, according to Erin Glarner, community outreach manager for the Bayer Fund. Applications were judged by a panel of farmers, consisting of approximately 30 farmer leaders from across the country, based on community support, need, and merit of the applications.
To secure the grant for South Jefferson, Mr. Cronk and Mr. Stowell each put in roughly 20 hours of writing and research outside of their teaching duties to put forth the best application they could.
“I think the job market is in the STEM area so I think it’s important that we have kids being trained in the ability to be knowledgeable and flexible,” Mr. Stowell said. “You can’t just train a kid for one occupation; you have to give them the STEM skills to be marketable in all areas.”