Robots coming to Natchez-Adams schools thanks to grant from state

Published 10:31 pm Saturday, May 12, 2018


NATCHEZ — Students in Adams County may soon add another talent to their skillset: Computer coding.

The Natchez-Adams School District recently received more than $120,000 in grant funds from the Mississippi Department of Education to create a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program for all students in kindergarten through eighth-grade.

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“Our goal is to see robots on every hallway in the district,” said Rachel Simmons, an assistant principal at Natchez High School who aided in applying for the grant that will help the district implement engineering, robotics and computer science programs.

Alice Morrison, director of curriculum for the district, said studying STEM subjects increases students’ practical application of both math and science.

“Not only does it help them with math and science, it helps students explore career paths early,” Morrison said.

At a specially called school board meeting Wednesday, school board secretary Thelma Newsome said the district has wanted to implement computer science in their curriculum for years.

“It’s something we’ve been hoping to get for ages,” Newsome said. “I’m just happy to get the ball rolling. … I just think students are going to be fascinated with it.”

Teaching students from the “bottom up” Simmons said, meaning starting at a young age, helps build students’ foundations of knowledge in computer systems.

“Early education is imperative to learning the vocabulary of the systems,” Simmons said. “When you start a new STEM program, it’s better to start at the beginning so that you can introduce the coding terms at a young age and then build up from there.”

Students who begin at a young age with computer programming, Morrison said, would be able to compete in coding competitions and possibly win scholarships.

“There are programs available for instance in cyber-security for students who, once they learn coding, can compete with kids all over the country,” Simmons said. “There’s just so much good that comes with it.”

Though the grant only provides funds for kindergarten through eighth grade, Superintendent Fred Butcher said Wednesday that he would like to extend the program to ninth graders soon and hopefully, eventually implement STEM programs through high school.

The department of education gave out a total of $886,000 to 13 school districts though the STEM grants.