This winter, Darien Public School students will be able to develop their skills as creative problem solvers, critical thinkers, and collaborators through a brand new K-12 Robotics program. The program, made possible by a $213,000 two-part grant ($119K in year one and $94K in year two) from The Darien Foundation, will support the District’s efforts to build innovative STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programming as part of The Darien Public Schools (DPS) curriculum.
Robotics integrates coding, engineering, and design while enabling students to explore, learn, and create with their peers in a collaborative team setting. The program will initially be offered as an extracurricular program via 12 after school clubs, available at all five elementary schools, Middlesex Middle School, as well as Darien High School. Following a two-year introductory period (and pending Board of Education approval), the STEM Robotics programming would be integrated into the curriculum and/or continue to be offered as extracurricular programming at all the schools, as part of the DPS operating budget.
Superintendent (and champion of the program), Dr. Alan Addley said, “The District is tremendously excited and appreciative of The Darien Foundation’s most generous two-year funding of a K-12 Robotics Program, consisting of Robotics extracurricular clubs at each of our schools.” He continued, “A K-12 Robotics Program supports the District’s recently adopted Vision, Mission and Board Goals through the design of innovative STEM programming. Robotics provides a new and exciting opportunity for the District to partner with the greater community in providing a unique experience for students to pursue their passions and interests. The District is also very grateful for The Darien Foundation’s ongoing generosity and support over many years for educational programs and resources.”
The Robotics extracurricular clubs will be organized by age and grade, and the programs offered will be based on the team-based programs of FIRST Robotics (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Students in kindergarten through second grade will be offered Robotics introductory/exploration using Wonder Robots; students in third through eighth grades will utilize Lego Spike kits and students in ninth through 12th grades will focus on designing, building, and coding robots, as well as potentially participating in competitions against other Robotics teams.
Dr. Joan McGettigan, Director of Instructional Technology, who is overseeing the program for the District said, “Robotics-infused learning experiences increase students’ abilities as creators, innovative thinkers and contributors to society. Whether a student wants to pursue a career in finance, fashion, video production, science, law or medicine, this generation of students will need to have some understanding of how technology and programming play a role in these disciplines.” She continued, “My favorite part of this initiative is the community engagement. We are excited to have faculty and interested adult volunteers from the community, such as engineers, programmers, and communications professionals share their knowledge with students to help make the program a success.”
The Darien Foundation Board Member, Robin Nelson, who was instrumental in the grant process and ongoing program oversight said, “This is an exciting grant and program for many reasons. STEM learning is so important right now—and for our society’s future. Bringing Robotics programming to our public-school curriculum will also help introduce more students to a fun and team-oriented way to learn, while teaching coding, engineering, and design. Furthermore, this grant is in line with The Darien Foundation’s original and ongoing mission to fund technology grants that help improve our students’ education and opportunities at school.”
Added The Darien Foundation Executive Director, Sarah Woodberry, “We are thrilled to be working with Dr. Addley, Dr. McGettigan, and the DPS on another innovative partnership to enhance the curriculum and to increase opportunities for students of all ages at all seven schools.”
The District is in the process of rolling out the different Robotics programs in January and is actively recruiting students beginning with K-8 through sign-ups that were sent out to parents after Thanksgiving. Said Dr. McGettigan “We are incredibly excited to work with our amazing DPS faculty to implement this new initiative for Darien’s students. This exciting extracurricular learning experience directly supports the District’s interest in enhancing STEM learning opportunities for students.”
About The Darien Foundation
The Darien Foundation is an independent, community-based, 501(c) (3) public charity. Since 1998, The Darien Foundation has awarded over $4.7 million in grants for technology and capital initiatives, which create opportunity for Darien’s youth, support our town’s safety and security services, and enhance the overall quality of life in Darien. Our volunteer Board of Directors—who reflect the many constituencies of Darien—thoroughly evaluates grant requests and assists grant recipients in achieving their goals. Public donations are directed to supporting grants awarded by The Darien Foundation, as all operating costs have been funded by Board member and Officer contributions. Recently, The Darien Foundation has awarded grants to Abilis, At Home in Darien, Corbin Cares, Darien Arts Center, DAF Media, the Darien Heritage Trail, The Depot Youth Center, Person-to-Person, Post 53, and STAR Inc.