• Boerne-Samuel V. Champion High School students (l-r) Gifford, Salas, Medina and Sara Owen conduct a lab on sedimentary rocks using new supplies purchased with a grant funded by the Alamo Chapter.
     Boerne-Samuel V. Champion High School students (l-r) Gifford, Salas, Medina and Sara Owen conduct a lab on sedimentary rocks using new supplies purchased with a grant funded by the Alamo Chapter.

Alamo Chapter Gives Local Earth and Science Class a Boost

April 1, 2018
By Szu-Moy Toves

The Alamo Chapter recently awarded a $1,000 STEM Teaching Tools Grant to Amanda Pelletier of Boerne-Samuel V. Champion High School in Texas. She began the school year with a brand-new class and curriculum, Earth and science, but budget restraints meant that Pelletier had to spend her own money to build the program. She believes in sharing science with young people, so she set aside funds for the new class.

“Teachers don’t make a whole lot of money, but I really do believe in this program and getting the students interested in STEM,” Pelletier said.

Shortly after the program kicked off, she found out the chapter offers scholarships and grants for qualifying STEM programs. Pelletier submitted a request for funding during the fall semester and not long after received a grant to purchase supplies.

She was able to purchase equipment that enhanced learning, including a density wave table, an earthquake simulation kit and 10 different Earth and space labs. Pelletier explained that she could only teach her students so much through lectures and handouts: “The best thing we can do for our kids is to give them hands-on opportunities.” The funding allowed that.

There weren’t any advertisements for the new class, but it received a lot of attention. “Kids talk, and the class picked up interest,” Pelletier said. “Our rock lab now has its own Instagram account.”

With 36 students, the class is larger than most. It is offered to juniors and seniors as a steppingstone to determine their potential careers in STEM. Sara Owen, a junior, explained that the class is especially fun. “I have a strange attachment to rocks and love learning about sedimentary rocks,” she said. Amanda Salas, a senior, added that she has always enjoyed learning about space. “This class is fascinating.”

Pelletier thanks the Alamo Chapter for its contribution in getting her class off the ground. She didn’t know the AFCEA grants existed, “and to know that [AFCEA] also helps military members is fantastic. We have many students that come from military families, so that is an added plus.”

The Chapter Teaching Tools Grant Program is a joint effort between individual AFCEA chapters and the Educational Foundation to promote effective STEM teaching and to enhance the abilities of capable STEM teachers in elementary and high schools worldwide. The grants are intended to help an elementary or high school STEM teacher (or international equivalent) augment STEM activities for his or her students.

In 2014, the grants were renamed in honor of the AFCEA Educational Foundation’s first executive director, Vice Adm. Samuel L. Gravely, USN (Ret.), who initiated AFCEA’s science and technology teacher tool grants program. The foundation provides a $500 Gravely Grant, which is intended to be matched by chapter funds.

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