“STEM Boxes” aim to bring much needed supplies to Charlottesville City Schools students

"STEM Boxes" aim to bring much needed supplies to Charlottesville City Schools students

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Performing a science experiment or building a robot is is hard enough for most students, but it’s even harder for students learning at home who don’t have access to supplies they’d normally find in a classroom.

“What if you don’t have supplies? What if you don’t have masking tape or a measuring scale, i mean the kind of things listed on our funding page, they’re ridiculously basic,” Dr. Sana Syed, organizer of the C’ville STEM: Support Schools in COVID-19 Times fundraiser.

Dr. Syed, a pediatrician, researcher and mother is raising money to deliver “STEM boxes” to Charlottesville City School’s elementary students. Boxes include items like measuring tape, a thermometer and measuring cups that some students may not have readily available in their home. Syed said something as simple as making sure every student has equal access STEM materials while learning at home makes it easier for students of all backgrounds to succeed in STEM courses or careers down the road.

“Children need to know they can be anything and you can do anything that you want. But that’s easier said than done. If you’ve never seen sort of a volcano explosion as a kid in an experiment, you won’t ever get fascinated by chemistry or science,” Dr. Syed said. “Not to say those are the only careers to go into, but those are historically underrepresented careers for black or people of color, black communities.”

The fundraiser’s goal of $30,000 is planned to provide boxes to anywhere between 1500 and 2100 students in levels K-4 in six schools for the entire 2020-21 academic year. More than $9,000 have have been raised so far, and Dr. Syed said the support doesn’t stop there.

“People are offering time, people are offering to buy supplies, people are offering to donate supplies from home, people are offering to create and vet the stem programs that the stem team is creating as part of the schools. I mean, it’s really just amazing,” Dr. Syed said.

Syed said the fundraiser is just one small step to making stem education more equitable. She also hopes to eventually raise enough money to hire tutors and mentors to help students as they work from home.

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