As the 2017-2018 school year comes to an end, hundreds of students in Washington County school districts are heading into summer, and the rest of their lives, with an enhanced understanding of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education — thanks to a unique scholarship program funded by Marcellus Shale drilling company, Range Resources.
Range has a long history of partnering with local school districts. It’s one way that the company fulfills one of its core corporate responsibilities: improving the lives of people in communities where Range employees live and work.
“We have been sponsoring job shadows and career days for several years now, we are also strong supporters of programs like Junior Achievement, Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week, the Junior Livestock Auction at the Washington County Fair, and The Challenge Program here in Washington County,” says Range’s Christina Kramer. “This past year’s STEM scholarship program grew out of those efforts. These students are among the next wave of the Washington County workforce, and we want to do our part to help them get ready for what’s ahead.”
Range committed an initial $50,000 to launch a new STEM scholarship fund. Nine local districts submitted applications: Avella, Bentworth, Trinity, McGuffey, Canon-McMillan, Washington, Burgettstown, Chartiers-Houston, and Fort Cherry, along with Intermediate Unit 1—a regional educational agency that services students in Washington County. But before rolling anything out, employees met with representatives from the applicant schools, to hear firsthand what the company could do to help supplement the teachers’ efforts.
“Trinity put forth a whole panel of science teachers who weighed in on what would be most beneficial for students,” says Kramer. “We also heard from several teachers and administrators from other districts. Most importantly, we wanted to be sure that that students would take something tangible away from this learning experience, and that it would be meaningful for them. And we were hearing that they needed something long-term, something more than just a one-day experience.”
Each of the nine districts plus IU1 received $5,000. AP Physics Teacher Nicole Welsh saw value in divvying up the funds that Trinity School District received.
“We split the Range Resources grant among different departments. The VoAg program used it in the water testing process in the freight farm, the technology department used it for the robotics class, the physics department applied it to a rockets project, and the science department launched our first student-organized STEAM competition that included six other schools from around the area. We felt splitting up the grant across the school would mean more students would be impacted.”
High School teacher Jeanette Hartley was in charge of The Freight Farm at Trinity, and was particularly grateful for water testing equipment the Range grant enabled the school to purchase.
“The Freight Farm is a fully-assembled, vertical hydroponic farming system built inside a 40-foot shipping container. Water quality in any farm is key to growing healthy, sustainable plants and animals. Having a water quality testing tool directly correlates to the work necessary in the Freight Farm, and it’s assisting in teaching how to conduct water quality tests using a real world tool that expands the skill set of participating students,” explained Hartley. “This purchase would not have been possible without the grant opportunities offered by Range Resources. Having their support creates real-world experiences and project-based learning for a multitude of Trinity students.”
Welsh shares that assessment of the value the grant brought to Trinity and other school districts.
“These projects helped our students be independent thinkers and yet also work together to solve bigger problems. All of the students were able to work on their team building skills, problem solving skills, communication skills, critical thinking skills, and last but definitely not least, exercise their creativity.”
Mandi Figlioli, Assistant to the Superintendent at Burgettstown, also saw how the Range grants enhanced students’ learning over the past year. “The funding allowed our students to engage in experiences that were not in our existing curriculum. It broadened their horizons, and expanded the walls of the classroom environment.”
Burgettstown students used the grant funds for programs that focused on robotics, programming, water testing, trout farming, and aeronautics. “All of the experiences required students to take on challenging projects and embrace failure as a means to growth. Range Resources provides more than just funding; they are engaged partners in education.”
Once their projects were completed, students from all nine districts and IU1 had the opportunity to present what they’d learned and field questions from Range employees at the company’s Southpointe location.
“So many of Range’s employees also have children and grandchildren enrolled in these same schools, so they really enjoyed seeing the students’ projects and hearing about what they learned as a result of the STEM scholarship program,” says Kramer. “We are so proud to be able to partner with so many caring and creative teachers, counselors, and school administrators here in Washington County, and we are already making plans for next year’s STEM grant. We can’t wait to see what the teachers and students will come up with next!”
This article is written and sponsored by Range Resources.