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WHRO is firmly on the STEM bandwagon

While I usually show up in the Virginia Gazette covering our many excellent performing arts events in the Soundings column, I want to detour from that to Troy Jefferson's recent article in the newspaper on the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics studies as seen through the lens of Christine Darden, a member of the team of African-American women at NASA who were instrumental in the early success of the space program and whose work inspired the movie, "Hidden Figures."

The article focused on Darden's background and rise in NASA and her message of the importance of STEM exposure in schools as a prelude to associated degrees and later involvement in the professional world at large.

Those thoughts, along with my affiliation with WHRO as a member of the community advisory council, prompted a need to mention the work being done by WHRO to promote STEM education in our school system.

Before that, it's important to note the not well known fact that WHRO was founded as an educational service, one that is now owned by 19 public school divisions. That it also provides music and news through its radio and television operation is somewhat secondary to its primary mission: education.

The organization's accomplishments include providing educational material designed to meet classroom objectives, as well as an extensive list of programs of instruction developed for professionals and holders of advanced degrees.

The emphasis here, however, is not about those endeavors but about STEM.

WHRO has a STEM Van that visits local Title 1 kindergarten through second grade classrooms throughout the region. A certified teacher and member of WHRO's staff works with teachers and/or administrators to determine a topic, from which a lesson is designed that includes such things as a book reading or video clip, hands-on activity, and a PBS KIDS game to play on iPads. As are all of WHRO's lower school educational endeavors, the activities correlate with Virginia's Standards of Learning. And, they're available to all.

At a recent advisory council meeting, WHRO's President and CEO Bert Schmidt again stressed the importance of this resource and its continued and growing popularity. Taking advantage of the STEM Van's offerings starts by getting on the schedule. Details of the multi-faceted program are available by contacting Angie Callahan, Director of Children's Services at WHRO (757-889-9407). Or Google "WHRO stem van" and you'll find many references to the program, along with on-site videos of the Van in action.

In Darden's recent comments as part of James City County's Black History Celebration, she indicated that when she speaks to elementary students, she stresses the importance of a STEM degree. And, she issues a similar message to upper grade students: "If you have the STEM background, if you have taken math and science through the high school level, you have twice as many options when applying for jobs."

Assuredly, the best place to start on that trajectory to success is at the start of a child's education. Schools and organizations are encouraged to investigate the learning possibilities available through WHRO's STEM Van, a resource dedicated to enhancing education through innovative technology and design excellence.

Incidentally, if you have any good, bad or indifferent comments about WHRO and programming, please send them to johnshulson@gmail.com and I'll make sure they are passed to Schmidt, without writer attribution. WHRO really does encourage feedback and I'm pleased to be a conduit.

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