Ashley, school districts partner for virtual STEM camps amid COVID-19

Arcadia, G-E-T, Independence develop Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum
Teachers and students were able to use the Micro:bit tool to to learn coding and programming online. Ashley's financial contribution allowed the students to keep the Micro:bits for free.

ARCADIA, Wis. (WKBT) — During these lazy, hazy, crazy days of COVID-canceled summer activities, some area students still were able to participate in Ashley Furniture Industries’ annual STEM summer camp — virtually.
After sponsoring the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math camps at local schools for three summers, the Arcadia-based international company wasn’t about to abandon them to the novel coronavirus.
Ashley officials determined that continuing the STEM programs was essential to maintain students’ learning throughout the summer months.
Representatives of Ashley and the school districts of Arcadia, Galesville-Ettrick-Trempealeau and Independence developed a virtual STEM learning experience for elementary and middle school students.
Using a pocket-sized, multi-functional programming tool called a Micro:bit, students and teachers were able to learn coding and programming online.
The two-week camp enrolled 86 participants among the three schools. Similar to past years, the program operated in conjunction with the schools’ existing summer programs.
However, in the COVID summer version, participants picked up kits, including school-issued laptops and other materials they would need to complete projects at home.
Ashley’s $10,000 contribution allowed students to keep their Micro:bits free of charge. Fox Valley Technical College also provided training sessions to help teachers become familiar with the Micro:bits’ coding and programming.
The school districts of Blair-Taylor and Whitehall, who also received donated equipment, plan to incorporate the Micro:bits into their middle-school curriculum this year.
Although instructors had to adapt to a new format quickly and were unable to assist with projects in person, students successfully programmed their end-projects: a wearable activity tracker complete with flashing emoticons, a beating heart light display and a working step-counter.
“This year’s offering was fantastic, as it provided a great learning opportunity for our students,” said Allene Horton, instructional technology coordinator at the G-E-T School District.
“One parent reached out and thanked me for bringing a smile back to her daughter who absolutely loved this camp,” Horton said.