9 Duval County middle schools getting STEM labs


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County Public Schools is preparing to launch innovative science labs in some of its most-challenged middle schools.

Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti on Monday announced a $1.9 million grant from the Florida Department of Education that will fund the building of state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering and mathematics labs in nine of the county's middle schools.

They are Eugene Butler Leadership Academy, Ft. Caroline, Highlands, Jean Ribault, Jefferson Davis, Joseph Stilwell, Matthew Gilbert, Northwestern and Southside middle schools.

"It's hands-on, project-based," Vitti said. "The students are working together, collaborating together and problem-solving together, and those are the kind of skills that our students need to go on to college and be success in the world of work."

Twin Lakes Academy Middle School students currently have a STEM-based lab where they explore rocketry, aeronautical exercise, eco-architecture and bioengineering. Students there love the hands-on experience.

"I think it will help us choose, help us choose our jobs like what type of job will be beneficial to us that we'll be good at," a student named Layla said.

One STEM teacher at Twin Lakes said it's a great way for kids to learn tools that are valuable to their future.

"I have enjoyed working in this lab. I have for the past 16 years," teacher Wanda Austin said. "We've had several updates and I have never yet failed to see the students' interest in the things they are learning."

The district will begin building STEM laboratories this school year. The new classrooms will be ready for students next fall.

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