Crenshaw schools first to host Betabox lab

Published 2:06 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2023

By Haley Mitchell-Godwin

The Betabox Mobile Lab recently made its inaugural visit to Crenshaw County Schools, thanks to funding from the State Department of Education. This innovative program is a traveling exhibit that brings hands-on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) experiences to students in rural and underserved areas helping bridge the opportunity gap for under-resourced students.

Crenshaw County Schools was the first stop for Betabox in Alabama, opening doors to a world of cutting-edge technology and educational opportunities.

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Brantley High School science teacher Tammy Sims expressed her enthusiasm for the Betabox program.

“Betabox is an excellent program that allows our students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills essential for success in our rapidly evolving world,” Sims said. “STEM learning prepares our students for a future where technology enhances our lives, transforms industries, and creates a safer and more sustainable world. We are very lucky to have this opportunity in our county.”

Betabox Learning is on a mission to create unforgettable hands-on learning experiences for students of all backgrounds. By partnering with some of the world’s leading STEM companies, they aim to bridge the opportunity gap by delivering hands-on learning curricula to rural communities and Title 1 schools. This initiative introduces under-resourced students to innovative technologies that might otherwise remain beyond their reach.

“Our objective is to get kids interested in STEM careers”, said STEM instructor for Beta Box Kai Clark, who took BetaBox to Crenshaw County Schools. “Kids who maybe wouldn’t have thought of [STEM concepts] as something viable for a job or career.”

During the lab’s visit to Crenshaw County Schools, students in grades 7-12 had the privilege of exploring the Betabox Mobile Lab, where they gained hands-on experience with a wide array of technology, including drones, autonomous vehicles, 3D printers, and more. This immersive experience is designed to boost student interest and self-confidence in technology and science.

The Crenshaw County School District is committed to preparing students for college and career readiness through innovative educational approaches. Recognizing the importance of STEM education, Bev Sport, a former science teacher at Luverne School, played a pivotal role in bringing Betabox to the county. Recognizing the importance of STEM within education, Sport began searching for STEM opportunities and resources for students in Crenshaw County. When she learned about Betabox and discovered that they had partnered with the Alabama State Department of Education and that a grant was available, she enlisted Dodd Hawthorne, Superintendent of Crenshaw County Schools, to partner with her in putting cutting-edge technology, tools, and materials into the hands of the students throughout the district. Sport is passionate about improving educational outcomes for students and believes that STEM is one way that our schools can achieve this goal.

“STEM education involves moving beyond the borders of the classroom and enables students to view problems from different perspectives,” Sport said. “Because of its interdisciplinary component, STEM is critical in supporting literacy and numeracy and cultivates critical thinking skills that are necessary for success in today’s world. Education is no longer confined to the traditional classroom setting. I’m excited about the changing landscape of learning, and thrilled that Crenshaw County Schools have taken a pioneering step toward preparing our students for college and career readiness through an innovative, hands-on and minds-on approach.”

Hawthorne shares Sport’s enthusiasm and has led a district initiative to increase STEM opportunities for students.
“By 2030, 85% of jobs that students will do don’t exist yet,” Hawthorne said. “We have to provide educational opportunities to prepare our students for those jobs.”

Since partnering with Betabox, Crenshaw County Schools have integrated other STEM-based programs into their curriculum, further expanding opportunities for students.

Betabox Founder and CEO, Sean Newman Maroni, emphasized the personalized nature of their curriculum.
“Our curriculum is simple but effective because we personalize it for each school we go to and for each student we see,” Maroni said. “What better way to facilitate a learning experience than to ask the students themselves what they want to learn?”

Highland Homes School Principal Gary Coleman shared his school’s commitment to exposing students to diverse opportunities, stating that faculty tries hard to expose students to different things that allow them to obtain experience with a wide variety of subjects, creating opportunities for them to compete on a local, national, and global level.

Adrian Daniels, a science teacher at Highland Home School, revealed that the excitement generated by Betabox’s visit has increased interest in the drone club that the school is establishing.

“We’re actually already in the process of forming a drone club for students,” Daniels said. “I see many of my students flying these drones brought in by Betabox, and the excitement in their eyes is unmistakable.”

As the Betabox Mobile Lab continues its journey across the nation, it leaves a trail of inspiration and opportunities for students in Crenshaw County. With STEM education paving the way for the future, Crenshaw County Schools are taking pioneering steps to prepare their students for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
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