Mountain View Voice

News - November 9, 2012

Schools win Google tech education grants

by Ashley Finden

Two of Google's 25 winners for this year's Home, Sweet Home initiative are Castro and Theuerkauf schools. The grant allows employees to select a local tech cause they are involved with and want their company to support.

Home, Sweet Home nominees focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education for kindergarten through 12th graders, closing the digital divide and reducing carbon impact and emissions.

Both of the Mountain View schools have after-school clubs that encourage technological education, according to Heather Spain, Google's community affairs manager.

In an effort to close the digital divide, Castro will use the grant money to provide children with daily access to the school's newly equipped computer lab. Recently, Castro raised money through PTA fundraising and district contributions in order to set the computer lab up with 30 Apple iMac computers.

But with such an unbalanced student-to-classroom ratio, it is difficult to give an equal amount of time in the lab to each class and there was no dedicated staff to manage the room, said Spain.

The school's goal is to provide computer-enhancing programs after school for students who do not have the technology at home.

The grant money will also allow Google employees to volunteer their time to teach their computer skills with the children and be a spot for older, tech-savvy students to become mentors, Spain said in a press release.

Theuerkauf Elementary School has an after-school Tech Club that encourages persistent studying, especially in science, and gives fundamental lessons on researching online, writing reports and programming.

The two-year-old club won a grant for the 2011-12 school year from Mouse Squad and had 15 participating students with 12 more on the waiting list. After a bit of work, the club was able to get additional volunteers to enable all students to join.

Theuerkauf Tech Club is open to third- through fifth-graders. Students learn a number of tech-related skills and are taught basic game programming using Scratch along with appropriate Internet behavior.

During the club, students also learn how to identify computer parts, build web pages through Weebly, build basic Android applications with AppInventor and they create movies with iMovie followed by uploading them to Youtube if parents permit.

This is the second year for the Home, Sweet Home grant program.

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