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Chevron $100,000 grant to help Heizer continue STEM program

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It’s usually a big, over-sized check whenever a major oil company donates to a Lea County school.

This check needed to be big, to fit all the zeros.

On Tuesday, the Chevron Corp. donated $100,000 to Hobbs Municipal Schools as part of its Community Partner program. The program focuses on three areas of social investment — health, education and economic development.

“We take a comprehensive approach to investments in education, by supporting not just the students, but the teachers as well,” said Chevron Community Representative Beverly Allen. “It’s also about supporting the curriculum and developing the teachers for this curriculum.”

Hobbs School superintendent TJ Parks moved that $100K investment to Heizer Middle School for its Discovery Education STEM curriculum program that was a pilot program last year. Discovery Education is a product of television’s Discovery Channel and all of its resources. Parks said the funding is mostly for professional development, but the school district’s involvement also includes the purchasing of technologies used in the program.

“That is our skin in the game,” Parks said. “If the teachers take the training, then we would purchase the technology. If we see success here, and we have already, we would like to expand this program to other campuses.”

Parks said teachers need “toolboxes” and that’s what this curriculum offers.

“This curriculum just gives (teachers) additional tools to reach another kid,” Parks said. “So it’s good from that perspective of reaching more kids.”

He said the school district targeted Heizer, located in the southern portion of Hobbs, as being a STEM school to attract students.

“Because we knew the Hobbs community was moving north, so to make sure that we offer kids a viable option to coming to Heizer, we wanted to give them something they can hook into,” said Parks, who said he has been involved in the Discovery Education program for about five years.

STEM education may be about science, technology, engineering and math, but for Discovery Education, STEM education means more.

“At Discovery we believe (STEM) should be in every classroom, in every lesson, every day,” said Discovery Education Senior Manager May Anne Guy.

Guy said Discovery Education has a different acronym for STEM, Students Teacher Energizing Minds. Science, technology, engineering and math can be found in any classroom subject. Even those involving paint.

“We don’t want the art teacher to feel like they don’t do math and science in their classrooms, because they actually do,” Guy said. “That is really the acronym we gravitated to. It’s STEM for all. For every child, every classroom. It shouldn’t be ‘a STEM class.’ STEM happens in every classroom.”

That is because Guy said the four components of STEM are a shift in how today’s classrooms should be taught, using collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking. This is done through a curriculum that offers two digital resources within the Discovery Education curriculum — STEM Connect and Discovery Education Experience.

STEM Connect is a problem-based learning program.

“Students look at an issue, whether it’s local or not,” Guy said. “The students can decide that Hobbs has a water issue and there are all kinds of activities that would lead to them building a project that would solve the water issue.”

“Them” is the learning concept. Instead of past educational methods where students sit in a classroom and look at the chalkboard for problems to solve, Discovery’s curriculum is about collaborating a group of students, allowing them to communicate amongst themselves to creatively solve a problem using their critical thinking.

“It’s hands-on education,” Guy said. “It’s about solving a problem by asking and answering all the questions needed to solve the overall problem. Those are the classrooms of the future.”

Discovery Education Experience is a bank of resources from Discovery Channel.

“We have educational programs from Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, TLC, HGTV and others,” Guy said. “We can pull relevant, real-world situations for students to be able to solve problems. So instead of teaching math, science, social studies, arts, PE, in isolation, we kick out that way of thinking so that what your end project is going to be, you are going to have to use all those disciplines to get there. That’s the way things work now. So when these students get out of high school or college, they still have those four critical skills they can do. That will allow them to drill down on what they are passionate about and have the skills to do them.”

The education will always remain challenging and there has to be a certain level of failure before achieving success. Guy believes to achieve success, they must first fail.

“It may sound bad, but we want kids to fail, and teachers as well,” Guy said. “The leadership at the district and school level has to allow their teachers to try something to fail. That’s the only way they will learn. We believe that fail is ‘First Attempt in Learning.’ Students get so frustrated when they can’t do something right the first time and we want to, as adults, just give them the answer. That’s not the way the world works and we have to give them the tools to figure it out.”

Heizer Middle School Principal Freddie Salgado said the Discovery Education curriculum gives students the opportunity to go beyond what the curriculum offers.

“The Discovery Ed program puts us over the use of technology, strategies, videos and other resources that many of our students are not exposed to in the area of science, technology, engineering and math,” Salgado said.

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