In 2005, the Board of Supervisors established the Math and Science Work Group to develop a strategic approach to promote and improve student achievement and teacher excellence in math and science by employing new strategies that engage and inspire students. The Work Group conducted pilot projects in 2005, including the establishment of the San Mateo County Innovation Fund. Grants were given to teachers with proposals that offered innovative and exciting ways to improve math and science instruction through student directed discovery. The Innovation Fund proved to be a universal success and we have continued to fund projects to enhance fourth, fifth and sixth grade math and science education.
In the 2016-2017 academic year, 8 awards were granted to 14 teachers for three individual and five collaborative Science, Technology, Engineering, Math (STEM) projects. An example of an awarded collaborative project is the Watershed project in the Cabrillo Unified School District. Three teachers from Farallone View, Hatch and El Granada Elementary, led a project that allowed all 5th grade students to track pollutants, microorganisms and measured water quality in creeks and streams close to their schools throughout the academic year. Students collected water samples and tested various characteristics of the water using SparkVue sensors. They then analyzed data utilizing sensor software and came up with results and conclusions. This project connected students to their environment creating a stronger sense of environmental stewardship and engaged them in science inquiry through active participation.