ATOMS Project Brings STEM to Three Oklahoma School Districts

There are plenty of resources in place for high schoolers and college students who are interested in STEM fields — but unless children begin their study of science, technology, engineering and math topics sooner, that education may come too late to foster a career. 

MACU is helping fill that vital gap in several rural Oklahoma school districts through its Access to Online Math and Science (ATOMS) rural development project. Through ATOMS, MACU seeks to improve teaching, learning and the self-efficacy of students and teachers in STEM fields.

Last winter, MACU received a $211,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fund the ATOMS project. With that money, MACU will provide STEM distance education to three Oklahoma school districts: Alex Public Schools, Peggs Public Schools and Stilwell Public Schools. 

“Our role in this is, we have video streaming technology using the MACU campus as a hub for extending ourselves through teaching lessons synchronously with elementary school students and teachers,” said School of Teacher Education Director Dr. Vickie Hinkle. 

Through use of Zoom conferencing services, MACU teacher education students will create and teach lessons to third through sixth graders in the three districts. Hinkle said that by bringing STEM education to rural schools, more Oklahoma children will see themselves as being successful in STEM fields. 

“So many people don’t feel comfortable with math and science as much as they do English and literature,” she said. “If you reach them younger, they can build that self-efficacy and confidence in learning math and science.” 

Funding from the grant has enabled MACU to purchase video conferencing software, iPads and SMART Boards for the classrooms — technology that the schools would not normally receive through state funds. 

Many school districts receive funding based on tax pay. In rural areas of the state, that could mean that hundreds of students don’t have access to the same technology as those who live in more urban areas. 

The ATOMS project will be fully implemented this fall. As the program takes off, the university intends to reapply for the grant so that more Oklahoma school districts can be benefited. 

“I’m just excited about it,” said Hinkle. “When the Lord starts something, you never know how it’s going to unfold, but it’s usually better than anything you could have imagined. He chose us to receive this opportunity for a reason, and we want to do Him proud.”

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