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Maldonado Elementary School is a month into first year with new STEM program


TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Tucson Unified School District’s Maldonado Elementary School is not only a month into the new year, they’re also a month into their first year with a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) program.

Robbie Ramirez is the principal at Maldonado Elementary, and she said seeing students in action has been amazing.

“Seeing the way that kids light up when you’re able to not only share an activity of what you’re going to do, but they get to do it and they get to design it,” she said.

She’s been planning for this program for three years, and this is the first year students in all grade levels are able to rotate on a weekly basis to participate. She said she has many goals for the program, but this is just the start.

“Trying to get that technology piece going, getting our students into coding, robotics, and then eventually we want to get them into video production,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez explained the students at Maldonado Elementary have had limited resources, compared to schools within city limits, as a result of being on the outskirts of town.

“So we wanted to bring those hands-on experiences to our students so that way we could have those interactions,” she said.

Maldonado Elementary also receives many transfer students, and Ramirez hopes the program will do more than bring new opportunities.

“We also want them to be excited, and to really want to learn and to be here and have something that kind of ignites that fire within them,” she said.

The initial $25,000 grant was provided by the Marshall Foundation. Tucson Electric Power matched those funds, creating a starting budget of $50,000 for the classroom.

Michelle Castellano is a fourth grade teacher at Maldonado Elementary School. She said, “when Maldonado received the grant for the STEM project, it opened up a whole new world for the students.”

This week the students are working on becoming engineers. They created roads with bridges, and tested the structures with bee robots coded by the students.

“The students will code the robots to go up, right, left, turn, backwards,” said Castellano.

Principal Robbie Ramirez said the program will extend into Valencia Middle School, allowing students to develop these skills as they grow. Her goal is to build the pipeline of STEM opportunities from elementary to high school.

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Reyna Preciado is a reporter for KGUN 9, she joined the KGUN 9 team in July of 2022 after graduating Arizona State University. Share your story ideas with Reyna by emailing reyna.preciado@kgun9.com or by connecting on Instagram, or Twitter.

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