The University of North Texas helps rural communities connect to STEM education – science, technology, engineering, and math – through local radio shows called “Raise Up Radio.”
The idea was born out of the pandemic when many students left classrooms to learn online.
“People say, ‘Oh, there’s broadband everywhere,'” said UNT assistant professor Sarah Evans. “The type of broadband that most rural communities have access to is expensive. It can be spotty.”
Evans, who is also director of the Children’s and Young Adult Librarianship program, wanted a way to better connect rural libraries to their communities through education.
“So we started thinking about radio,” Evans said, explaining how radio has a lower barrier to access in rural communities. “We really wanted families, intergenerational groups, to come together and create a broadcast series of about four to six episodes that really revolved around their specific community.”
The only criterion: the episodes had to be based on STEM learning.
Pottsboro, Texas, near the Oklahoma border, is one of the pilot program communities. They create programs about chickens.
“They can choose whatever subjects they want as long as they relate to science, technology, engineering, and math,” Evans said. “They think, ‘Oh, I’m not a scientist or a math guy,’ and we all do math in our daily lives, especially in rural areas. A lot of the work that gets done depends on scientific concepts.”
As in the classroom, learning includes hands-on experiment kits.
“There was an incubator in the library with eggs that people could visit and take a look at,” Evans said, explaining some of Pottsboro’s hands-on learning.
UNT is working with its counterparts at the University of Alabama for the pilot program funded by a 2-year grant. The plan is to expand into western and central Texas.