WARRENTON — The Warren County Schools district has been awarded a sizable grant to implement a program that is poised to benefit district students and teachers soon.
The $30,000 grant will help the district implement the Plasma Games pilot program, an effort the N.C. General Assembly ordered as it was distributing a portion of the coronavirus relief aid the state got from the federal government.
Plasma Games refers to a Raleigh-based company, Plasma Games Inc., that’s created software that legislators hope can “bridge the gap between chemistry and physical science classes” on the one hand and “career and technical education career pathways” on the other, according to the bill they passed in June.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for our kids,” said Ernie Conner, the Warren schools’ director of technology and CTE. “A lot of times when people say games, they automatically think it’s just all football, action like [that], but it really does integrate science and chemistry and physical science concepts.”
He added that it’s “really more of a project-based learning” tool.
“Kids today, they learn in different ways and this just makes it more hands-on,” he said. “It gets the kids engaged and it really promotes science careers, careers that deal with science, and I’m really looking forward to our kids being a part of this. I think they’re going to like it. It’s going to be a really neat learning tool that our teachers will have to promote science.”
Legislators allotted $2.5 million to the effort statewide and assigned the job of running it to the N.C. Department of Commerce, rather than to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
The program made it into the coronavirus bill after initially surfacing in 2019 as a piece of standalone legislation sponsored by state Reps. Jason Saine, Craig Horn and Linda Johnson, Republicans from Lincoln, Union and Cabarrus counties, respectively. Johnson died in February.
Conner said the Warren schools received notification about its award about three weeks ago, having first applies for it through a Department of Public Instruction web site.
“It’s specifically for high school chemistry and physical science teachers and students,” he said. “When we wrote the grant, they were the only ones that we could include in our application but … once we received notification and they requested that we give our teacher’s names and their email addresses, they also at … no additional funding needed, we were able to add our Warren County Middle School science teachers as well. So, they’re going to be able to participate in the program even though it wasn’t in the initial part of the grant.”
Conner and Science, Engineering, Mathematics and Aerospace Academy Project Coordinator Stanley Harrell collaborated with the DPI, Plasma Games founder Hunter Moore and Warren County Schools staff to write and submit the grant proposal.
District officials plan to implement the program in the spring semester.
“As soon as we get back from our winter break, the teacher’s accounts have already been set up, so we’re going to need to have them participate in some professional development that is provided through the grant by Plasma Games itself,” Conner said.
The initial training is about an hour and then there may be some follow up training, he said.