STEM programming at Claiborne Pell Elementary School is about to grow, thanks to a recent grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Education Acitivity.

Marcin Rembisz, the Communications Coordinator/Secretary for Newport Public Schools, shared the following announcement on Monday morning.

U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) Awards Newport’s Claiborne Pell Elementary School $500,000 Grant to Expand STEM programming

Claiborne Pell Elementary School is excited to announce its recent awarding of a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). DoDEA leaders from the Committee on STEM Education of the National Science and Technology Council say, “it is critical to our national security that our students spark interest in critical and fast-growing careers in STEM and our PreK-12 education system is poised to increase and sustain student engagement in STEM. This grant will provide elementary students with the college and career-ready resources necessary to successfully build and/or expand its STEM programming.”

“Combined with current programs, the DoDEA grant will provide our youngest students with technological and outdoor resources to use in designing their own community-oriented projects to be celebrated during an annual STEM festival. Targeted professional development and an expanded toolbox for teachers will deepen student understanding in science and math while developing literacy and healthy outdoor connections,” said Kimberly Behan, Assistant Superintendent of Newport Public Schools.

The DoDEA grant, called “Reaching for the Stars”, will pay for an integrated STEM program that merges pre-existing programs and outdoor spaces with engaging technology and three-dimensional learning through the Next Generation Science Standards. Included are 60 augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) 3D learning stations that enable children to kinesthetically explore, rotate and experience, objects and abstract concepts that are too small, too far away or too complex for them to otherwise understand. Using this system, elementary school children can virtually dive into a volcano, dissect a cactus, and explore the solar system.

According to the grant’s writer, Dr. Kathryn Jessen-Eller of the East Bay Educational Collaborative (EBEC) in Warren, Rhode Island, “The long-term goal is to expose young students to various technologies, experiments and engineering design challenges in various environments, so they picture themselves as scientists and engineers with clear pathways to STEM careers”.

Reaching for the Stars updates the STEM Lego program with 14 new Dell Laptops and WeDo stations and the outdoor teaching pavilion with a mobile outdoor magnet wall. The magnet wall is equipped with hands-on ramps and levers. Additional magnetic dry erase graphing charts will supplement the school’s Full Option Science System (FOSS) by encouraging teachers and their students to collect outdoor data like plant growth over time. Reaching for the Stars includes 20 educational drones which students will learn to code and fly. Generating bird-eye images of the school grounds and biomes provides students unique perspectives they can use to design their projects.

According to Jessen-Eller, “we hope teachers and their students will use AR/VR technology to create garden projects that will promote healthy eating and nurture an interest in the natural world. A similar model was successfully used at M. Agnes Jones Elementary in Atlanta, Georgia.”

EBEC, a 501 educational non-profit providing professional development and STEM resources to regional teachers since 1990, has a significant role in linking pre-exiting school programs with the new technology by providing extensive teacher training and facilitating teacher lesson planning and collaboration. EBEC will spearhead STEM Festival planning in collaboration with a planning committee to be established within the school’s parent teacher organization.

Reaching for the Stars planning will take place through 2021 with a pilot year planned for third grade. This will launch in August 2021 with a six-day teacher workshop series at EBEC and baseline science achievement assessments for students.

For more information, please contact Kim Behan of Newport Public Schools ( or Kathy Jessen-Eller of EBEC (

About Claiborne Pell Elementary School

Claiborne Pell Elementary School is located in Newport, Rhode Island where there is a U.S. Naval Station. Rebuilt in 2011, Pell includes 806 grade K-4 students. The mission of Pell Elementary School in partnership with students, parents, staff, and community is to promote a positive and safe environment, where students want to be and a school where parents want to send their children.  This partnership ensures equity, personalization, communication, visibility and academic rigor that produces responsible, respectful, lifelong learners and citizens.

About DoDEA

The Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) is a field activity of the Office of the Secretary of Defense. DoDEA’s mission is to plan, direct, coordinate, and manage the education programs for eligible dependents of U.S. military personnel and civilian personnel of the Department of Defense. The DoDEA has congressional authority to provide resources to public schools to support the continuity of education for military-connected students through a competitive grant program.  DoDEA’s vision of “Excellence in education for every student, every day, everywhere” is realized through this partnership with public school districts.

The DoDEA awarded $22 million across 21 grants as part of its 2020 Cohort. These grants will serve more than 100,000 students across 13 states. DoDEA’s Education Partnership and Resources division strives to ensure all military-connected K-12 students have access to quality educational opportunities through engagement in partnerships with school districts and professional organizations. The division provides school personnel and stakeholders with evidence-based resources and supports to increase understanding and awareness related to the unique challenges faced by military-connected students and families. Learn more about the division here.