Inspired by a training program she attended last summer, Pocahontas County High School science teacher Chloe Bland applied for grants and received $5,000 to fund an astronomy and engineering project for her Earth and Space Sciences course.
“Back in the summer, we had the Earth and Science Passport program,” Bland said. “I was a participant of that program and the second year of our training, they took us to Fairmont State University where they had NASA come in and they exposed us to the Lego robotics EV3 kits.”
With the EV3 kits came a Mars challenge which the teachers had to navigate and solve to complete the challenge of getting an astronaut safely to Mars. After experiencing the challenge, Bland decided she wanted to bring a similar program to her students.
“I wanted to create something similar to that, so I filled out the application and I’m working on getting all the equipment,” she said. “I’ll be able to get six of the robots and then six iPads so they can run the software. I was also able to purchase the Mars challenge – it’s kind of like a big board set that has all sorts of scenarios. I was able to purchase two of those board sets on top of a little charging station for the iPads.”
Once the equipment arrives, the students will be tasked with the same challenge Bland encountered at the training.
“They will have to build their robots from scratch – they do have directions, but they will have to start fresh,” she said. “They will build the robots and then when they are ready to start testing. They’ll have to write down all their program codes. They’ll have to calculate things like their distance, their speed – that way they can accurately complete the challenges.”
The project will cover both astronomy and engineering and design content standards, killing two birds with one stone.
“Hopefully as we continue on we can get more sets – maybe get some different robots,” Bland said. “The math department is working on creating more vex oriented curriculum, so maybe in a few years, we’ll transition over to that. It’s so exciting.”
The training at FSU was influential in Bland’s curriculum and helped her visualize what was possible for her class.
“When I was at Fairmont, I was a little intimidated because I didn’t have a background in coding, but it’s something they need to get exposed to,” she said. “The training really had a big influence on how I wanted to set up my curriculum. Before I was even enrolled in that program, I did not have a clue about things to do with Earth science. Mary Sue Burns helped out a lot, but going through that program really helped me visualize what I wanted our department and our courses to start focusing on. I was able to get an idea and it’s just really exciting to finally see it come to life.”
The training also included a grant writing workshop which helped Bland learn to write her own proposals. The two grants she was awarded were the first she’d applied for. The grants were awarded by the Snowshoe Foundation and Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.
Bland’s experience with writing and receiving grants has made her confident in growing the science program at PCHS.
“We live in an area that has an unimaginable amount of science available to students,” she said. “You think about the geology of Pocahontas County. We’ve got the Observatory in our backyard, but because of the monetary restrictions, we’re somewhat behind, so I’m hoping this will get us moving toward the future.”
While the EV3 kits are for the Earth and Space Sciences courses, there are unlimited possibilities with the equipment, especially for the science and math departments which both now include engineering courses.
“We can pretty much take it any which way we want,” Bland said. “The math department – they’ve already asked if they could use them next year. It’s not only benefiting the science courses, but also benefiting our mathematics courses, which is our ultimate goal, to keep building a STEM oriented program here at the high school.”
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org