Mary K. Chapman Foundation’s $100,000 Grant Completes STEM Learning Funding Initiative

HANDS-ON LEARNING: The STEM Learning Funding Initiative provides students with a series of curriculum-guided and self-directed project engagements.

The STEM Learning Funding Initiative began in 2015 when Jenks Public Schools leaders turned to the JPS Foundation to fund STEM Learning Labs at six school sites (Jenks Middle School, two intermediate Schools and three elementary schools) plus two years of payroll support for facilitators at each STEM Lab.
As a result of the request for help, the JPS Foundation staff and board of directors immediately embarked on a journey to bring 21st century STEM learning environments to more than 6,000 students.
A lead gift of $500,000 from Danny and Stephanie Christner began the momentum to secure funds for the project. Today, the Christner’s and The Mary K. Chapman Foundation, along with more than 60 other restricted gifts from parents and businesses, have enabled the JPS Foundation to fulfill its commitment to the district.
“The Chapman Foundation has chosen once again to help fund our STEM programs because it saw firsthand how collaboration between the JPS Foundation and the district were meeting the needs of all students with invigorating STEM curriculum that can propel them to pursue further education and possible careers in those fields,” said Danny Christner, JPSF board member and past president.
In addition to this gift, a previous $100,000 grant from The Mary K. Chapman Foundation contributed to the funds required to install STEM Learning Labs at three Jenks elementary sites.
“The JPS Foundation has raised and distributed $1.59 million out of a total project cost of $1.74 million. The Mary K. Chapman grant and unrestricted funds raised this year will enable the Foundation to fulfill its commitment to the district,” said Elizabeth Inbody, executive director of the JPS Foundation. “Community support has been overwhelming! The STEM Learning Funding Initiative is a perfect example of how mobilizing a community of supporters produces results. It only takes a few minutes in a STEM Learning Lab before an observer sees firsthand the amazing learning experience students receive. We are extremely grateful to all the STEM Learning donors for making an investment that will benefit the students at JPS for years to come.”
STEM Learning Labs at JPS are designed and provisioned for project-based, technology-enabled learning by Creative Learning Systems in collaboration with JPS Teaching and Learning administrators. STEM Learning Lab resources include computers, media equipment, a broad spectrum of software applications and hands-on learning resources such as scientific probe ware, test equipment, manipulatives and construction sets.
In a STEM Learning Lab, students progress through a series of curriculum-guided and self-directed project engagements. As they tackle those projects, students learn technology skills and systems, including: mechanics and structures, computer graphics, publishing and multimedia, robotics and control technology, circuitry, and computer simulation. In addition, students develop 21st century skills, such as: critical thinking and problem solving, application of technology to workflow, project management, collaboration and teamwork, and communication and research skills.
A single teacher is trained in the resources and educational methodology. In the STEM Learning Lab, this professional is called a “facilitator” in recognition of their primary role to facilitate learning. A facilitator does not need to be an expert in all of the classroom technologies. Since self-direction is one of the primary 21st century skills to be developed in the lab, students are expected to be able to source and utilize resources other than the teacher when they have questions about the technology. It is much more important that the facilitator be competent in guiding a project-based, student-centered style of learning than have specific expertise in the various technology applications and tools.
The JPS Foundation is an independent not-for-profit corporation that invests in programming to achieve district-wide excellence. The sole reason for its existence is to serve the Jenks Public Schools system along with the generous donors who support the district.