Lithonia High and Stoneview Elementary earn $25,000 each

Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) based learning opens many doors for students.

It connects the classroom the wider world. It establishes applicable, recognizable concepts in students’ minds. In doing so, STEM-based education also empowers students to change the world through technology-driven, solution-based careers.

Thanks to one national charity organization, such an education will be more readily available at two DeKalb County School District (DCSD) schools.

girl reaches into bin with laptopsIn June 2018, Lithonia High School and Stoneview Elementary school were awarded $25,000 each for the purpose of investing in STEM-based programs. The funds come as part of a grant offered by the Dart Foundation, a Michigan-based charity that focuses on investing in public education.

Committees from both schools applied for Dart Foundation grants during the 2017-2018 school year. Both Lithonia and Stoneview were chosen for their ability and desire to provide real-world connections to STEM-based disciplines.

The funds awarded to Lithonia High School will be used for an outdoor science lab, according to principal Derrick McCray. The lab, which is scheduled to be complete by Winter 2018, will feature outdoor lab tables, microscopes, environmental science kits, portable lecture boards, and more.

“This is an awesome opportunity for our kids,” McCray said. “We want our kids to relate to nature. Right now, students see it, but they don’t see it with a scientific perspective. With the lab, they can grab a leaf, look at it under a microscope, and engage in the learning process right away.”

McCray hopes the outdoor learning lab will spark an interest in the minds of Lithonia High students in a way a traditional science classroom cannot. This spark, McCray says, can grow into a greater understanding of the real world, resulting in better college and career opportunities for students.

“No longer can students ignore science,” McCray said. “This is going to foster real-world relationships with science and learning. They will actually see it take place within their own neighborhoods, in their own environment.”

In the same way, the outdoor learning lab will provide teachers with another tool in their instructional repertoire. McCray is confident the new learning space will help educators better engage with students.

“Teachers can’t wait to get out there and make real-world connections for our students,” McCray said.

According to Stoneview Elementary principal Cassandra Davis, the $25,000 in funds will afford a plethora of STEM-related devices for students. Every student, at every grade level, will have access to 3D printers, Stoneview’s community garden, coding classes, and more.

“We’re extremely excited for this opportunity,” Davis said. “We truly believe in the motto: ‘A school cannot live apart from its community.’ Knowing the community is willing to invest and give back is truly heartwarming.”

stoneview indoor aquaponics plantDavis describes Stoneview’s current STEM state as ‘grassroots.’ In early 2018, more than 300 community members came together to build the school garden. Davis hopes to continue this momentum with the newly awarded funds and increase student achievement.

“The goal ultimately is to give our students real life application,” Davis said. “We want to take things they learn in the classroom and apply it to real-life situations. We want to open our student’s horizons to careers and professions they didn’t even know existed.”

Davis hopes the funds will instill a sense of curiosity in educators who may have a beginner’s understanding of STEM-based learning.

“Grants like these, and the resources they can afford, turn on lightbulbs for educators,” Davis said. “It gives teachers inspiration and knowledge needed to be successful in implementing our curriculum. It’s a step forward in helping students become successful.”

For more information on the Dart Foundation, visit