Unaka High School Teacher awarded TVA/BVI STEM Innovation Grant

Published 2:09 pm Friday, December 1, 2023

Unaka High School is pleased to announce science teacher, Mrs. Katherine Nichols, as one of the recipients of the 2023-24 TVA/BVI STEM Innovation Grants. She is the first teacher to receive the grant in UHS history. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in collaboration with the Bicentennial Volunteers Incorporated (BVI) rewarded teachers serviced by the TVA with $1.5 million dollars in funding for STEM programs. Unaka High School was awarded the maximum per application in the amount of $5,000.

Nichols submitted her proposed project entitled “Solving Hunger: One Plant at a Time.” Teachers were asked to select one of four categories to focus on. While her main focus was community-problem solving, she will simultaneously be focusing on the schools energy conservation. She stated early in her proposal, “With the perspective grant, the school will implement a community garden. By encouraging students, teachers, and community members to work together, the school aims to find practical solutions that cater to the specific needs of the underprivileged students. Specific needs including broad topics from experiencing food production, nutritional information of produce being grown, water collection and reuse, the responsibilities included in maintaining the hydroponic program, and the main focus: hunger.”

Nichols will be installing eight hydroponic gardening systems. In total, she, along with students in the program, will have the ability to produce just over 400 starter plants. Eventually establishing a community garden within the science department at UHS. Nichols states, “The introduction of hydroponics for these underprivileged students demonstrates our school’s commitment to providing a well-rounded education. This innovative approach allows students to engage in hands-on learning experiences while cultivating their interest in agriculture. By utilizing hydroponics, students gain exposure to cutting-edge farming techniques and develop essential skills that can propel them towards future success in this field. It encourages students to explore science in the direction of agriculture.”

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Nichols anticipates having the systems up and running by mid-spring of 2024.