With a grant from Sparklight, Dowling Elementary School will start an after-school STEM club in the fall.

Courtney Selking, campus coordinator for Communities in Schools of the Permian Basin at Dowling, said there are currently no after-school programs at the campus. The school won a contest to gain a club; the grant is for $3,000.

Formerly Cable ONE, Sparklight is a cable, internet and phone service provider.

Details such as grade levels and when the club will meet haven’t been worked out yet, but there may be opportunities for other after-school programs next year.

“… There may be some tutoring or other things like that. But the hope is to use the $3,000 from the contest to kick off the event and get students excited about STEM and joining the club with a field trip. Hopefully, with COVID passing we can do some field trips in the fall. …,” Selking said.

She hopes to travel to Texas Tech University in Lubbock.

“They have a day where kids can do some STEM learning on the campus there, as well as get exposure to a college campus … From there, we’ll have to figure out in the fall next year how often the club will meet. But the remainder of the money will be used to buy STEM materials and equipment for the kids. … I also reached out to Museum of the Southwest because I know they have some STEM kits … to help supplement the money,” Selking said.

Communities in School Campus Coordinator Courtney Selking answers questions about their after school STEM club Thursday morning at Dowling Elementary School. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

Selking said she would like to offer the club to students in Communities in Schools first.

“… I think there are lots of great opportunities for STEM to start all the way from kindergarten. Sometimes when you have that wide gap with kids they tend to like to help each other, so it could be a great opportunity for that,” she said.

She will also figure out how to accommodate younger siblings who want to stay and be part of it.

Principal Julie Marshall passed the chance for the grant on to Selking and it was pretty competitive.

“… It was a pretty quick and simple grant to write. I submitted that and then they picked 10 grants to go to the contest and then once the contest started it was just purely on public voting,” she added.

A check presentation may be coming up in mid-May.

Many people were presented with the chance to vote for the Dowling STEM club.

“We have campus coordinators and Midland and Odessa, all the middle and high schools, as well, so we sent it to them and they had some of their students participate as well,” Selking said.

Communities in School Campus Coordinator Courtney Selking answers questions about their after school STEM club Thursday morning at Dowling Elementary School. (Eli Hartman|Odessa American)

Once the funding is in hand, she said she hopes to start looking for some community partners that want to help out.

“I think having a STEM club here gives students more opportunities to engage” and further their learning experiences, Selking said.

“… A lot of the careers that they will likely be a part of will fall under STEM and so getting any kind of experience to innovate, to think critically, use problem solving to work on different projects and really get their hands on that kind of learning I think has a great benefit to them as well,” she added.

Marshall said she is excited to receive the grant.

“… I know that having engaging after-school activities that students like is crucial to building strong relationships with students and encouraging daily school attendance. I hope this is only the beginning of providing hands-on clubs for Dowling students!” Marshall said in an email.

Communities in Schools is a dropout prevention program that serves mainly middle and high school students. It is being piloted at Dowling.

Its website says CISPB was established in 1999 by a group of concerned citizens to address this area’s dropout rate.

“The vision of the organization was to provide a positive environment for at-risk students, ensuring their access to educational opportunities, social services and support services. CISPB helps young people reach their goal of graduating from high school and going on to become positive contributors to the community,” the site said.