RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. — A Riviera Beach elementary school is creating learning opportunities for its students that they didn't have before.
A $50,000 Classroom Makeover Grant from Florida Power & Light has transformed Tracey Howard's second-grade classroom at Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School.
The classroom has new educational materials, furniture, virtual reality goggles, baby chicks for lifecycle lessons and more.
Students got to participate Thursday in an event building generators as an example of the new learning avenues they can explore.
Second-grade student Jasmine Simpson loved the opportunity to learn something new.
"We were working as a team, and we made a bologna sandwich with magnets and cardboard and a stick and two magnets," Jasmine said. "I like that we get to work together to make something cool."
This type of technology-inspired, hands-on learning is becoming much more routine thanks to the grant and new classroom materials.
Teacher Tracey Howard applied for and won the grant.
"I wanted this grant because our kids are in need and with the grant, it made it possible to provide exposure to science, math and technology that makes learning limitless," she said.
She's been teaching at the Title 1 school for almost 20 years and said this new education infusion puts her students on a higher level.
"It's so important because we need astronauts," Howard said. "These kids can grow up and work for NASA. We need engineers. They are our future, and they are guiding us into the future with what they are learning through STEM."
Howard will learn something new too since the funding will help her get a master's degree.
"I will be learning along with my students, so I'm super excited about that as well. I'm just overjoyed and grateful for all they've done," Howard said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I thank God for it. I'm just excited to see my kids learning and get in there and believe, build and bloom."
Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School in Riviera Beach was one of five schools in Florida to be awarded a Classroom Makeover Grant from FPL last year to advance STEM curriculum, increase the exposure of Black students to STEM education and jumpstart students' interest in STEM careers.
The $50,000 grant that the school received supported a variety of professional education resources, including computers, robot lab packs, aerodynamics sets, and renewable energy education kits.
"As a Title 1 school with a 98% Black population, we are committed to providing children of color with vast learning opportunities and exposure to STEM education and careers," Katrina W. Granger, the principal at Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School, said. "We are so appreciative of FPL's commitment to diversity in STEM, which has made the vision of hardworking and inspiring STEM educator with big dreams, Tracy Howard, come to fruition. This grant will support both Mrs. Howard and her scholars achieve their greatest dream."