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ORAU: Then & Now

5 K-12 STEM education programs offered by ORAU

One of the main missions of ORAU is to educate and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders. To achieve this, ORAU provides K-12 students with STEM programming throughout the year from real-life STEM-based experiences to hands-on scientific experiments and activities and STEM-focused academies and workshops. Most of these programs take place during the summer months so students can have a fun and educational way to spend their break from school. In addition to providing a STEM educational experience for students, ORAU also offers an array of professional development programs for K-12 teachers to enhance their knowledge and skills in STEM education. Take a look at five of the STEM education programs offered and/or managed by ORAU:

1. Appalachian STEM Academy at Oak Ridge

The Appalachian STEM Academy is a residential, hands-on institute that is sponsored by the Appalachian Regional Commission. This program is great because it is designed for both teachers and students. The students are divided into three different age brackets: middle school, bridge students (8th and 9th grade), and high school students. During the program, students are split into groups to perform research projects focused on problems within their communities and work together to come up with possible solutions. They also get to take special trips to Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and other local educational and research organizations to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. For teachers, the Appalachian STEM Academy is a two-week program that allows them to interact with scientists at ORNL and other STEM subject experts.

2. Math & Movement Mini-Academy


Based on the name of this free annual summer academy, you may be able to tell what goes on. Many studies have shown that students lose interest in math quickly, and the Math & Movement Mini-Academy gives them a reason to get excited about it. During the academy, elementary school students have the chance to practice valuable math skills while also getting some exercise. One of the most exciting activities during the day is the giant counting mat. With instructions from the educators, kids can solve math problems by jumping from number to number on the colorful counting mat. Through a variety of games and activities, kids can sharpen math skills while enjoying a fun day of learning and physical activity.


3. Adaptation Exploration Summer Academy

Educators are always trying to find new ways to keep students engaged with classroom lessons, and that’s a big part of the Adaptation Exploration summer academy at ORAU. This free program is put on by the team from the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, and it emphasizes ways for teachers to plan lessons outside the classroom in the natural environment. By learning how to explore the schoolyard as an adaptation of the teaching standards and lessons from the classroom, teachers can show students new and exciting ways to learn about STEM education. 

4. Extreme Classroom Makeover


With the constant evolution of technology, it’s hard for teachers and school systems to offer the best resources for students when it comes to STEM education. That is why ORAU launched its Extreme Classroom Makeover in 2008, in conjunction with the completion of its new Oak Ridge office building that boasts a Center for Science Education and technology-rich demonstration classroom. The goal was to help improve STEM education in public schools across East Tennessee and give teachers the tools and technology they needed to reach students in the modern age of learning. The competition annually awards one 3rd-10th grade math or science teacher with $25,000 in new equipment to upgrade their classroom with the latest technology. Over the nearly 15 years this classroom makeover has been offered by ORAU, it has given teachers what they needed to continue inspiring their students in STEM. Since Extreme Classroom Makeover launched, ORAU has awarded more than $500,000 in technology to local schools. Want to learn more about our impact? Check out our blog about why ORAU contributes to local schools.

5. Education Grants

With the same mission of helping East Tennessee educators meet the needs of their students and classrooms, the ORAU Education Grants program awards local teachers with funding and supplies for their STEM programs. In 2023, six educators across five counties received a combined amount of $30,000 for help purchasing supplies and teaching materials for their classrooms. The recipients used the grants to purchase everything from interactive globes and building blocks to iPad minis and earthworm dissection kits. ORAU provides the Education Grants because we are committed to strengthening K-12 STEM education.

Want to learn more about the STEM focused workshops and academies that ORAU offers for K-12 students and educators? Start planning now to attend one of our 2024 summer programs.

ORAU Media Contacts and Information

About ORAU

ORAU, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, provides science, health, and workforce solutions that address national priorities and serve the public interest. Through our specialized teams of experts and access to a consortium of more than 150 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local, and commercial customers to provide innovative scientific and technical solutions and help advance their missions. ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Media Contacts

Pam BoneeDirector, CommunicationsCell: (865) 603-5142
Wendy WestManager, CommunicationsCell: (865) 207-7953