Story and photos by Sam Campbell

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Dec. 6, 2018) — The Waynesville R-VI School District welcomed a $1.25 million grant from the Department of Defense Education Activity Friday morning at Freedom Elementary. The grant, which is the largest in school history, is meant to improve the level of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, or STEM, education.

The event began with services from the Waynesville High School Jazz Band and the JROTC Color Guard. It was attended by about 400 students and dignitaries from the school district, state government and Fort Leonard Wood.

Col. Thomas Duncan II, U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear School assistant commandant, said the grant aims to “enlighten the minds of our younger generations, so that one day they may use their knowledge to enlighten the world.”

Duncan, who referred to the grant as an investment in knowledge, affirmed that the school and the Army share a common sentiment.

“Taking the time to invest in (our children), develop their skills, make them better leaders, and grow their interest in STEM will absolutely keep our society and our nation strong and prepared to face any task,” he said.

The DoDEA grant will assist the district with its Project EDGE (Educating our Digital Generation Effectively) through May 2023. The project will create personalized, online learning paths using the Edmentum Learning Platform and implement robotics and coding clubs at multiple grade levels.

Students from the elementary and high school robotics clubs gave a demonstration of projects they’ve already completed and discussed their future goals. With more than 75 percent of the Waynesville students being military dependents, the community and Fort Leonard Wood are two parts of the same team.

Duncan expressed pride to be part of this community, “because it is a community that is continuously looking for ways to ensure our future generations are given every opportunity to succeed and reach their goals.”

Dr. Brian Henry, superintendent, said “this grant’s impact will be far-reaching because as our military students move away, they will take the skills with them.”

“Our students will benefit throughout their lifetime from the opportunities this grant will afford them,” he added.

Jesse Smith, a sixth-grade student from the Leaping Legos Robotics Club, demonstrates his robot’s functionality.
Col. Thomas Duncan, U.S. Army CBRN school assistant commandant, addresses students and dignitaries at the assembly.