Wayzata-based Cargill is giving more than $3 million to three metro school districts to expand two science and technology programs.
Most of the money -- $2.5 million -- will go to the Science Museum of Minnesota so it can distribute a curriculum called Engineering in Elementary to all elementary schools in the Minneapolis and Hopkins districts.
Mark Murphy with the Cargill Foundation says the program blends reading with real-life math and science problems. One class he saw read a story about going to the market, and then did an activity related to making a meal.
"Much like you and I would have to do if we had to figure out a recipe in a cookbook," he said. "You're applying math skills, but you don't think of it as applying math skills. Instead, you're just reading something out of a book."
The Science Museum of Minnesota will distribute the materials for the Engineering in Elementary program.
Museum president Eric Jolly said it's crucial to have programs used across entire districts.
"Putting a full, district-wide curriculum in place -- as opposed to school-by-school -- assures that the district will be able to support the materials; that teachers will have colleagues doing the same thing; that their professional development will be aligned for everyone in that system," Jolly said.
"The Engineering in Elementary curriculum will engage elementary age students in rich hands-on experiences with meaningful real world connections and applications," said Minneapolis superintendent Bill Green, in a statement.
The program will reach all third through fifth graders over the next four years, beginning this fall.
Another $622,000 will help a second program, called Gateway to Technology, to be expanded in Minneapolis and Osseo schools.
That program is administered by Project Lead the Way (PTLW), a national nonprofit organization that works in partnership with schools to implement curricula that emphasizes hands-on experiences in engineering, design, and technology for sixth through 12th graders.
Cargill officials say their aim was to fund science and math programs that are already used nationwide -- in hopes of helping make Minnesota students competitive internationally.