Teachers, Students Highlight Efforts to Boost STEM, Computer Science in NC Schools

Stem Bus

A pair of presentations to board members from two teachers from McDowell County and student leaders highlighted work done by DPI’s Computer Science & Technology Education section with a focus on the second annual #IAmCS Summit and a teacher-led STEM initiative in a rural county.

As participants in the Kenan Fellows Program at N.C. State University, teachers Donna Pyatt and Renata Crawley have taken what they learned from a study of sea turtles in Costa Rica to students across McDowell County, putting their hands-on lessons in a used van brightly decorated with the words “Full STEM Ahead.”

Crawley and Pyatt have visited every elementary school in the county and worked with all fifth graders to learn about sea turtles using buckets of sand and ping pong balls as stand-ins for the eggs that turtles lay on beaches in North Carolina and elsewhere.

“Since we’re in a rural county, lots of students have never been to the beach,” they told board members. “We wanted to take the world to them in the STEM van.”

Both teachers praised the Kenan Fellows Program for exposing them to business and industry beyond the world of education as way to better support their students.

“What can I do in my classroom to make sure my students aren’t just thinking about jobs today, but the jobs of tomorrow,” Pyatt said. “What can we do to move forward and assist our students to be world changers, life changers?”

Board members also heard from a student team that led the annual #IamCS conference, which is aimed at attracting more girls to computer science classes and careers. The statewide effort is focused on showing girls and young women in North Carolina schools that computer science is a career that is achievable, rewarding and in high demand. 


This year’s conference, held in April, was billed an opportunity for North Carolina students from elementary grades through high school with an interest in STEM, computer science, AI, robotics, and technology to further explore their interests through guest speakers, workshops, games, and other activities.