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Institute for Rural Education and Development

  • Students and teacher working on STEM project together and smiling.

SC Impact

South Carolina rural schools face unique resource challenges that often cannot be assisted with traditional educational methodology. Our research seeks to help rural schools and teachers create and institute models and methods that work for their students.

Education Models That Work for Rural Schools

We're developing educational models and methodologies that target early motor development, computational thinking, social-emotional and behavioral health and STEM job readiness for students in rural schools.

This work benefits  children from early childhood through early adolescence—preschool through high school and beyond—and helps prepare them for the many STEM futures available to them in our state, as well as across the country. It all starts with our partner school districts right here in South Carolina. 


Areas of Impact

A large percentage of students in South Carolina live in rural areas, which present needs for developmental assistance and STEM career awareness that differ from more urban areas and their schools. While the research will benefit the country and state in a multitude of ways, four main areas of education and industry will be most impacted by our results:


STEM Career Exposure

More than 40% of South Carolina's schools are classified as rural. 

Rural students have fewer opportunities to learn about, explore and participate widely in STEM workforce exposure. Rural schools have fewer resources to help students with career counseling for STEM fields and a large distance to travel for job shadow days, facility tours and other opportunities more readily available in urban areas.

We are  working alongside rural teachers to create new methodologies and use of technologies that work for their classrooms so that they can incorporate more STEM content and STEM career exposure into their lesson plans.

With more exposure to STEM education and career paths, rural students will develop the skills and interests needed to pursue successful careers in STEM fields. 

Workforce Development

Encouraging students to join STEM careers to benefit the state's industry is a priority for South Carolina. 

The digital inequity that rural students experience, coupled with demand for STEM jobs and the potential of rural youth and communities, has led to efforts on both the national and state level to pass inititatives that increase access to STEM education for rural students. 

The institute's projects increase students' awareness of possibilities for a future in STEM at ages when they are choosing their interests and which skills they'll build into their eventual careers.

Our research for middle school and high school students involves collaboration from rural science teachers and school counselors to develop health science content and career development programs via instructional and immersive virtual reality activities.

Introducing rural students to STEM career opportunities at key educational moments when they're choosing which occupations interest them most will help develop a strong STEM workforce in South Carolina.

Developmental Skill Building

Students are increasingly falling behind in educational readiness related to motor skills, computational skills and social-emotional skills.

School readiness is defined as physical well-being and sensory-motor development, social and emotional development and general knowledge and cognition, like early literacy and math skills. According to the 2020 Kindergarten Readiness Assessment, fewer than 1 in 4 students in South Carolina are actually ready for kindergarten. Delays in development early on lead to a compound effect where additional development phases are delayed throughout a student's education.

Rural schools also face specific challenges in complying with South Carolina laws for early emotional behavioral intervention, due to smaller pools of specialized expert resources and other limitations. Our work creates methodologies to help rural schools expand on their strengths to create models for development skill building that work for their unique situation.

Creating and incorporating methods and models that rural teachers can use to help with early childhood through early adolescent developmental skill building will increase South Carolina students' readiness for their educational and career milestones.

Teacher Support

Rural teachers in South Carolina face specific challenges in giving students the career and developmental support they need.

In May 2018, Act 213 was signed into law, which directs South Carolina districts to implement a multi-tiered evaluative framework to address the academic, behavioral, social and emotional needs of each student.

The Act states that children enrolled in PK through 12th grade must be evaluated for risk factors and that school districts must intervene when risk is found. Rural schools, with limited monetary and specialized personnel resources, often have difficulty engaging in these mandated activities. 

With the help of rural educators, we are developing holistic educational programs and procedures that will work effectively in rural school settings to make these evaluations and interventions possible.

Helping rural teachers create methods and models that work for them to support their students' developmental needs will help improve educational outcomes for rural students in our state.


Partner with Us

Become a strategic partner by starting an applied research project with us, funding the research or collaborating with us on the work.

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Institute for Rural Education and Development

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.