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The Bellevue School District was awarded $4 million in federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Education this week as part of the Investing in Innovation program, or I3.

The school district was among just 49 applicants chosen out of nearly 1,700.

The five-year grant will go to programming at Sammamish High School, and is intended to help better prepare kids in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, said principal Tom Duenwald. The school wants all of its students to graduate from high school prepared for college-level math, he said.

The school plans to use the the funds for professional training for teachers to help move them toward a problem-solving approach in classes in all disciplines and also find more ways to improve math skills among underserved students, Duenwald said.

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The school already has done some pilot programs in classes with problem-based learning, he said. In the Advanced Placement government class, for example, the students have held a mock United Nations and also have looked at what it takes to put together a political campaign, from politics to funding.

A lot of high schools rely on a traditional lecture-based approach, but Duenwald wants Sammamish students to have a greater understanding about the subjects they learn at school.

“We’re looking to them to have deeper knowledge and apply it, to do it in college and in the work world, too,” he said. “That ability to gather knowledge and use it to problem-solve I think is a really important skill in many of the things we do.”

The school district still needs to find another $700,000 in private matching funds in order to receive the grant money, Duenwald said.

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