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Full STEAM Ahead (Education)

The “Full STEAM Ahead” program of Rochelle School District (Rochelle, IL) is based on the concept of integrating arts into the core STEM (Science, Teaching, Engineering, Math) curriculum, using 21st century modules and offering students real-life STEAM experiences. Some examples of how this translates into actual projects include growing and harvesting school gardens, sampling soil, performing sustainable agriculture projects (i.e. organic vs. traditional), producing radio commercials for food processing companies… The overarching aim is to prepare students to move full STEAM ahead on college/career readiness by improving teaching and academic achievement.

The innovative “Full STEAM Ahead” program has won two of Monsanto Fund’s America's Farmers Grow Rural Education grants so far, once in 2014, which enabled the introduction of the program and once in 2015 in order to expand the program. As of today, it has impacted over 1,000 students in middle and elementary school, but the overall impact in the community turned out to be even more far-reaching than expected. One of the most awe-inspiring stories of the program started with several 8th grade students looking for an opportunity to utilize the 3D printer purchased with the grant money in a useful context for the school or community. After discovering a local farmer in need of a replacement prosthetic for an arm he lost in a farm accident, the students started researching online plans for 3D printing such as an arm. This led them to team up with the fire department to print and donate the arm to the farmer. The students themselves have been tremendously engaged in this ambitious project from the start and have started coming in before and after school to work on it.

This is just one of many examples that show the significance of giving kids a bigger picture of the value of their classroom learning and teaching them how to apply it in the real world. The vision of the “Full STEAM Ahead” program has not only affected Rochelle’s students, but the entire community. None of this would have been possible without the Monsanto Fund, as the school district is faced with a high unemployment rate, which in turn leads to limited community funding. The district has also been confronted with large reductions in local and state school funding, which is why programs such as “Full STEAM Ahead” mostly rely on outside resources such as grants to assist it in offering the best opportunities to their students.