PPG Foundation Expands Access to STEM Learning for Students

Integrative STEM learning is essential to prepare students for future careers in a highly technological world. However, not all students have the opportunity to gain an understanding of, and exposure to, the possibilities in STEM. In addition, many high-needs schools often do not have access to the equipment and experiences required to help students get excited about STEM and develop confidence in their skills.

To help address this need, the PPG Foundation, the philanthropic arm of PPG, a leading paint and coating manufacturer, recently partnered with AdoptAClassroom.org to provide grants to 10 high-needs schools to enrich their STEM education programs.

For the second consecutive year, the PPG Foundation funded middle and high schools in communities where they operate, this year targeting Pittsburgh, PA; Atlanta, GA; Huntsville, AL; Greensboro, NC; and Oak Creek, WI. Their support helped both students and teachers feel more supported in the classroom, and reached 3,500 students.

The PPG Foundation is committed to building the next generation of scientists, creators and engineers, and their support for teachers is transforming school STEM programs, and getting students the learning tools and materials needed to thrive in school and beyond. In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, we are proud to share some of the transformational results from the PPG and AdoptAClassroom.org partnership.

Kelly S., a teacher at Columbia High School in Huntsville, Alabama, purchased materials needed to implement a rocketry club with the PPG Foundation grant. The school is located in a community populated with government and missile defense related careers, and the rocketry club will provide the school with an opportunity to build relationships with local mentors and community members. 

She reports that “The arrival of rocket materials to the school is sparking conversation with students, creating excitement around the launching of a new club. In fact, this excitement has encouraged a select number of students to reach out to parents to become involved as a mentor with our club.”

Alaina D., a teacher at Pittsburgh Schiller STEAM Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania used the donation to purchase new learning materials including STEM kits and 3D resin printers to grow their resources for engineering and making opportunities. Her students had a positive experience working with their new equipment. 

“STEAM is so hands-on and engaging to me,” said Vivian, one of Alaina’s eighth grade students. “It’s useful to learn tools that I could use in the future for my career or even as a daily life skill.”

See how other schools transformed their STEM educational programs using their PPG Foundation School STEM Grant:

Building a STEAM Makerspace at McNair Junior High in Huntsville, AL

McNair Junior High School used their grant to turn an empty classroom into a student-led makerspace. Elizabeth F., director of public development at the district, worked with the school to plan six work stations where students could have hands-on experience in different STEM skills. 

The school purchased a 3D filament for an existing 3D printer, laser cutting machine, CNC Pro Router and VR headsets. These supplies are essential for the laser engraving, virtual reality, 3D printing, and industrial design stations in the makerspace.

“This classroom is next door to the Project Lead the Way classroom making the area a truly interactive space and most importantly an area to help recruit students into more STEM related fields,” said Elizabeth.

Supporting Science Classrooms at Perry Traditional Academy in Pittsburgh, PA

New STEM classes were recently offered at Perry Traditional Academy, but teachers didn’t have the up-to-date resources they needed to deliver all of the STEM learning activities they hoped to teach.

The PPG Foundation’s STEM grant was a game changer for the school year and a few of the STEM classes, including forensics, anatomy & physiology, STEAM engineering and AP chemistry. Vicki A., who teaches the forensics class, went from scraping together lessons to providing her students with an immersive learning experience.

With the donation she received from the PPG Foundation, she provided her students with new labs for AP chemistry and forensics, models and slides for anatomy and physiology, and crafting materials, engineering games and building tools for STEAM.

“The impact was profound. For the first time we were able to ask for items and receive them, think of activities and teach them, and dream up labs and had materials to design them,” said Vicki. “Students would look forward to hearing about what was planned for the grant. They were engaged, excited and looked forward to learning. For the first time they felt like they had access to some of the things students have at other schools.”

Using Math and Science to Solve Local Issues at Camp Creek Middle School in Atlanta, GA

Camp Creek Middle School used their PPG Foundation grant to support real-life, science-based problem solving. Students researching homelessness in the Atlanta area were tasked with creating tiny houses for this population. Using the new 3D printer, filament and 3D Starter Doodler purchased with their donation, students used math and engineering to design and print tiny homes. The tiny home project became foundational to STEM activities across the entire school. 

Sixth grade science students were tasked with researching the benefits and costs of using solar panels on the tiny homes being built as part of their learning on natural and renewable resources. Seventh grade students are expected to analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for how resource availability and human activity affect individual organisms, populations, communities, and ecosystems. During their science learning, they analyzed the effect on the local ecosystem while choosing the plot of land that the tiny home community will be built.

“The equipment purchased through the PPG Foundation School STEM Grant afforded our students the ability to bring their ideas out of their minds and off paper into the palms of their hands,” said STEM teacher Sadeqwa A.

The practical tiny home project became a very empowering exercise for students, showing them how they can contribute to change for the good in their own community.

The school plans to use the 3D printer, as well as other recently purchased technology, for more STEM-based curriculum and student-led learning next year.  

Enhancing Engineering and Design at West Middle School in Oak Creek, WI

At West Creek Middle School, PPG Foundation funding was used to purchase an Epilog Laser Engraver, which will enable the teachers to take STEM projects and classes to the next level of designing and engineering. 

This engraver will be a school-wide asset as students continue to learn about coding, engineering, architecture, marketing, designing and exploring various software applications. In addition, access to this new technology will help students at West Middle School prepare for future careers. The laser engraver will allow them to use design software to create packaging for many of the projects created in class. Packaging engineers are in high demand in the Oak Creek community and beyond, and the teachers at West Middle School believe this curriculum will provide a gateway to introduce their students to this career field.

Above all, the investment in new STEM tools and technology is engaging students and sparking their interest in learning. Instructional Coach Cassandra K. shares that, “I wish I could have recorded the initial reactions of the students finding out we were given this grant to purchase the engraver. Their eyes lit up and they were kids in a candy store! Their innovative ideas and all of the hope, engagement and possibilities this brought to us was incredible. I have been in education for over 13 years and have not seen this type of appreciation or excitement before.”