By WRAL Tech Wire STEM News

CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C. – A $100,000 grant from the Google Inc. Charitable Giving Fund of the Tides Foundation will enable The Education Foundation, Inc. of Caldwell County to invest in new technology for schools to participate in interactive science and technology activities and courses.

“Caldwell County Schools seeks to target science education and technology literacy, and this grant will allow us to obtain state-of-the-art tools to engage in fun, educational activities,” said Pat Triplett, executive director of The Education Foundation. “Our foundation exists to seek out special projects like this for our teachers and students.”

Thirty-seven thousand dollars is designated for outdoor lab equipment and training for 25 teachers – one or two from each elementary, middle and high school in Caldwell County – to be trained in geocaching by Regina Barrier of The Science House of N.C. State University.

Participants in geocaching use Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to find hidden ‘caches’ or containers.

Each participating teacher will receive a GPS sensor, LabQuest data collection device, temperature probe, and specialized lab manual. Barrier, the western outreach coordinator for The Science House, also will train teachers to use the data collection technology.

Educators also will learn Google Apps such as Google Docs, Calendar and Groups to best utilize data and share information with other classes and schools. These teachers will then go back to their home schools and train their colleagues.

Caldwell County will have a class set of these devices for any teacher to borrow and use with their students.

The additional grant funds of $63,000 will be used to develop a “Science 180” course curriculum and laboratories at the Caldwell Career Center Middle College. Computers, the software, and specialized electronics will be used to support three STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) labs which will provide a paradigm shift in science education.

“Google is proud to fund such innovative projects and shares Caldwell County’s excitement in technology,” said Enoch Moeller, Google’s operations manager at the nearby data center in Lenoir. “Geocaching will allow students to investigate real-world applications of science concepts in a natural environment and supplement that with classroom instruction.”

These new STEM laboratories and technology tools will help educators teach science concepts through inquiry-based strategies, and investigations that took hours will take minutes – leaving more time for students to learn about data collection and analysis.

The county-wide program could impact more than 7,000 students.

Caldwell County along with Watauga and Ashe counties (working collectively as the High Country STEM Community) are one of the newest STEM communities to begin working with the NC STEM Community Collaborative.

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