Berkeley school district, Berkeley Public Schools Fund receive grant for STEM opportunities

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Sunny Shen/Senior Staff
A grant from the Bayer Fund and Wareham Development is geared toward a "Diversifying the STEM Career Pipeline" initiative. The initiative benefits student populations that lack representation in STEM, in addition to the STEM industry itself, according to Wyn Skeels, the Career Technical Education program supervisor at Berkeley High School.

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In an effort to provide STEM opportunities to underrepresented student populations in Berkeley middle schools, more than $500,000 in grants was given to Berkeley Unified School District, or BUSD, and the Berkeley Public Schools Fund.

To support the “Diversifying the STEM Career Pipeline,” an initiative focused on increasing STEM education opportunities for student populations that are underrepresented in STEM careers, the Bayer Fund and Wareham Development gave $356,100 and $212,00 in grants, respectively, according to Erin Rhoades, the executive director of Berkeley Public Schools Fund.

The initiative aligns the STEM curriculum at all three BUSD middle schools with the Career Technical Education STEM Pathways curriculum at Berkeley High School and establishes a collection of STEM programs set to begin this year, Rhoades added.

“These grants are really bringing a focus to STEM education in our middle schools and opening up the possibility of more specific career pathways for students when they enter high school,” Rhoades said. “This will diversify STEM careers by opening up more STEM opportunities for different student populations that historically have not had them.”

A portion of the Bayer Fund grant is allocated to BUSD to support the expansion of sixth grade STEM curriculum at middle schools this spring, according to Jennifer Cogley, Bayer Fund deputy director of community relations. The curriculum will include hands-on courses in digital media coding, programming and robotics, among others.

The other portion is allocated to the Berkeley Public Schools Fund to support either summer or after-school STEM enrichment programs, Cogley added in an email. These programs are targeted towards student populations such as Latinx, Black and English learner students of all gender identities.

“Middle school is a key turning point when many girls and students of color start feeling left behind in science and math,” Cogley said in the email. “Enabling schools to help these students flourish in STEM subjects at this pivotal time in a young person’s development is a vital expression of Bayer’s values as a company.”

The Wareham Development grant establishes summer and after-school STEM programming through 2021 and 2022, including STEM Steps for Success for the summer and an after-school STEM Maker Club for middle school students, said Rich Robbins, Wareham Development founder and president, in an email.

The initiative benefits the student populations underrepresented in STEM, as well as the STEM industry itself, according to Wyn Skeels, the Career Technical Education program supervisor at Berkeley High School. Diverse individuals who enter the industry can bring unique perspectives to research and technology, Skeels added.

“We’ve identified real participation gaps in student enrollment in some of our STEM pathways,” Skeels said. “By starting to expose them to STEM earlier, starting with sixth grade, students can gain more confidence, be more inspired and more aware of the STEM opportunities for them in the future.”

Annika Kim Constantino is a schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaKimC.