The future just got even brighter for Northside Elementary School students as the Duke Energy Foundation presented Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS) with a $40,000 grant to fund a new Inquiry and Nature-Based STEM Program. The presentation took place in the garden of Northside Elementary School, which will pilot the program with their third, fourth and fifth graders next year.
Funds will go towards training teachers to implement a combination of inquiry-based learning and sustainability to the classroom. CHCCS teachers will work with the Institute for the Environment at UNC to design a curriculum that aligns with the program’s values and meets the College and Career Readiness Standards.
The measurable goal over the next five years will be to decrease the achievement gap in the district and cut non-proficiency on the Grade 5 Science Test in half. CHCCS sustainability program director Dan Schnitzer explained that the direct aim of inquiry-based learning is to encourage curiosity and questions.
“Teachers will provide students with context. What will come from the students is questions that they have about what they want to learn and what they want to do," Schnitzer said. "It works with the natural learning method that children exist in. Instead of going against that grain, we’re going to work with it.”
Schnitzer collaborated with the Chapel Hill Carrboro Public School Foundation and its executive director Lynn Lehmann to write the grant. The program will promote participation in immersive learning experiences that will be tailored to deepen students’ interests and connect them to their community outside of school.