$4 million grant will help teach computer coding skills to rural Missouri students

University of Missouri program earns grant to help advance STEM education in underserved Missouri school districts.

This is a picture of a kid learning on a iPad.

Feb. 1, 2021
Contact: Brian Consiglio, 573-882-9144, consigliob@missouri.edu

Ninety-seven percent of children and adolescents play at least one hour of video games each day, according to the American Psychological Association. Meeting children where they are to encourage interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, may be the key to prepare students for potential STEM careers in the modern workforce.

This is a photo of Carla Chaffin.

Carla Chaffin is the grant’s primary investigator and instructional consultant with the eMINTS National Center, which is housed in MU’s College of Education.

To teach one of the most crucial skills needed for STEM careers — computer coding — the Enhancing Missouri’s Instructional Networked Teaching Strategies (eMINTS) National Center will use a $3.9 million grant to help rural Missouri school districts teach fifth grade students how to create video games that teach computer coding skills at the same time.

“Not only is STEM education a big push in the educational landscape right now, but we also need to figure out how to motivate and excite students to want to learn more about these topics,” said Carla Chaffin, the grant’s primary investigator and instructional consultant with the eMINTS National Center, which is housed in the University of Missouri's College of Education. “This grant will allow students to create their own video games and simulations that align with math and science curriculum while teaching computer coding skills.”

The project will partner with 47 schools throughout rural Missouri in school districts with high percentages of students on free and reduced lunch programs. Coaching and technological support will be provided by eMINTS to teachers at the partner schools, and computers will be provided by Kansas City Audio-Visual.

“Our overall goal is to use technology appropriately to help students learn more effectively,” said Tad Brinkerhoff, director of the eMINTS National Center. “However, the technology is just a tool, and the instructional model we use is the real key. If we can teach students a transferrable skill, we can spark their interest in STEM topics while allowing them to have fun and enjoy school at the same time.”

Chaffin added teaching young students to be problem solvers and develop critical thinking skills will benefit them as they mature and eventually enter the workforce.

“By exposing students to these opportunities to create and learn, hopefully they will be excited about potentially pursuing careers in STEM later down the road,” Chaffin said. “We want them to enjoy coming to school and to be engaged so their motivation for learning continues during the course of their lifetime.”

This is a photo of Tad Brinkerhoff.

Tad Brinkerhoff is the director of the eMINTS National Center.

Missouri schools interested in this project can find more information here. Funding for the grant was provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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