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Farmers can nominate schools for STEM grants

Staff report

ST. LOUIS -- The number of jobs with an emphasis in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years, according to the National Science and Math Initiative.

To help K-12 educators enhance their STEM curriculum, the America's Farmers Grow Rural Education program, sponsored by the Monsanto Fund, will once again provide farmers with the opportunity to nominate their local public schools for opportunities to receive $10,000 and $25,000 grants.

Former grant-winning schools, such as Early County Elementary School in Blakely, Georgia, indicate the program stimulates school budgets for STEM education, as well as students' level of interest in science and math.

In 2016, Early County Elementary School used a $10,000 grant from the Grow Rural Education program to expand the science curriculum by building a hoop house, allowing students to apply classroom lessons about the ecosystem and plant lifecycles to the fruits and vegetables they harvest.

"The Grow Rural Education grant has had an impact throughout our entire school district. After our elementary school students harvest their crops, we provide the food to our high school culinary arts program," said Early County Elementary School teacher Tim Spooner. "This allows high school students to learn their craft and then give a portion of that food to our area's most needy residents."

In 2017, the Grow Rural Education program will award approximately $2.3 million to schools. Since the program began in 2011, it has awarded more than $11 million to schools in rural communities.

To qualify for a Grow Rural Education grant, farmers in eligible counties must nominate an eligible rural public school district to compete for a merit-based grant of either $10,000 or $25,000. Farmers can nominate their school district through April 1.

After the school district receives a nomination, the Monsanto Fund will notify the district and encourage administrators and teachers to design a grant that enhances STEM education in their district.

Nominated school districts have until April 15 to submit a grant application describing their project. An advisory council composed of farmer leaders then reviews finalist applications and selects the winning school districts.

"The Grow Rural Education program provides farmers with a way to give back and sets students up for success in their local communities," said Al Mitchell, Monsanto Fund president. "We have heard from many school districts that the projects they implement excite their students and, in many instances, have resulted in improved test scores."

To nominate a local school district for one of the Grow Rural Education grants, as well as a complete list of program rules and eligibility information, farmers can go to GrowRuralEducation.com. Additionally, more information about the program can be found at facebook.com/AmericasFarmers.

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