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West Decatur Elementary to Build STEM Lab With Amazon Grant

Staff at the Alabama elementary school had been planning for four years to build a STEM lab, and now a $25,000 grant will afford them materials including a makerspace cart, robots, drones and coding lessons.

STEM graphic
(TNS) — Amazon has awarded West Decatur Elementary and teacher Regan Posey one of 10 national grants in honor of her teaching efforts, and she hopes the STEM lab the money will build teaches the school's students more about robotics and computer science.

Amazon announced Tuesday that Posey had been selected as an Amazon Future Engineer Teachers of the Year and awarded the school $25,000 and her $5,000. Posey said the STEM lab will be for all grades in West Decatur, even students in pre-K where teachers will build special lesson plans for them.

"We want to do everything from a makerspace cart, which is more like manipulative Legos ... all the way to robots and drones and things that they can really code and use their computer skills on," Posey said. "All of our students can benefit from this."

Posey said the idea of a STEM lab looked bleak before Amazon awarded the grant.

"Before we got the money, the idea for a STEM lab was like a pipe dream," Posey said. "In the education system, we don't have $25,000 extra to throw around so this makes it achievable for us to provide these opportunities for our kids."

Decatur schools' technology coach Faith Plunkett said the old computer lab is currently being renovated and redecorated to accommodate the new STEM lab. She said they hope to have the lab open before the beginning of next school year.

Amazon annually selects 10 teachers across the United States who "promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in the classroom to encourage students to pursue careers in computer science and robotics."

Plunkett said Amazon sent out applications to teachers this year who had been participating in the Amazon BootUp program, a sponsorship that gives teachers the resources to spread computer science throughout their schools. Eastwood, Woodmeade, Julian Harris, and Chestnut Grove are other elementary schools in the district who are also a part of the program.

"(The applications) went out to those teachers and it asked them what they were doing in their classroom that was innovative," Plunkett said.

Plunkett said the applications also asked how teachers would use $25,000 to enhance STEM learning in their classrooms and schools. Posey answered on the application that she and her fellow educators would use the $25,000 to build a STEM lab.

"(Posey) sent out the application and we were notified a couple of weeks ago that she won and it was just announced (Tuesday) from Amazon," Plunkett said.

Plunkett said she and West Decatur Principal Jennifer Edwards have been planning on building a STEM lab for the last four years.

"We had this huge list of materials that we wanted to buy and so I answered that we would buy these robots and this is what we would teach with them or buy this circuit board and this is what we would teach with it," Posey said. "We were very specific about what we wanted to do with the money and it worked out for us."

©2022 The Decatur Daily (Decatur, Ala.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.