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August 16, 2016

White House awards Philly high school for STEM program

US2020 project focuses on green infrastructure in urban settings

Education High Schools
081616_STEMhighschoolaward Source/CH2M

Award recipients from W.B. Saul High School in Philadelphia, the CH2M Foundation and The Nature Conservancy.

A Philadelphia high school was awarded this week by the White House for its participation in a public-private collaboration to develop an innovative science, technology, engineering and math [STEM] education program.

The W.B. Saul High School, located in Roxborough, accepted the US2020 STEM Mentoring Award for "excellence in public-private partnerships" in recognition of its pilot project with the Virginia-based Nature Conservancy and the global CH2M Foundation.

Founded with a focus on agricultural studies, W.B. Saul High School last year received a $200,000 grant to work with its partner organizations on the development of a green infrastructure and STEM education pilot program, according to The Journal.

With a prime location next to Fairmount Park and several greenhouses on its 130-acre campus, W.B. Saul has been tasked with demonstrating a water management system to effectively regulate storm water quantities and quality — a project Philadelphia implemented more broadly under the first round of its Greenworks initiatives.

The program, to be completed over the next two years, aims to cultivate interest in green careers that incorporate science, technology, engineering, math and even design principles into their work. Participants will also promote the value of urban green infrastructure — bioswales, wetlands, green roofs and rain gardens — to the broader educational community.

"Studies show that informal science learning outside the classroom plays a crucial role in sustaining long-term understanding and interest in STEM fields," said Brigitte Griswold, director of youth engagement programs for The Nature Conservancy. "The students who attend W.B. Saul High School will be leading the development of this green engineering solution right on their campus."

Launched by Chevron and Tata Consultancy Services at the 2013 White House Science Fair, US2020's mission is to change the trajectory of STEM education in the United States by enlisting STEM professionals in dedicated youth mentoring programs for underserved and underrepresented students.

"With this grant, teachers will be able to provide a true hands-on application of the agricultural curriculum that is currently being taught," said Jessica McAtamney, agricultural dean at W.B. Saul High School. "The grant will enable Saul's teachers' to be at the forefront of teaching environmental technology."