LEE COUNTY – With STEM being the action word of educational and economic development officials for the past half a decade, state officials continue to put money toward programs that focus on critical thinking.
A new wave of applications through Governor Kim Reynolds’ Iowa STEM Advisory Council, is now being accepted for area schools and outside organizations interested in helping students of all ages engage in the STEM processes.
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is an interdisciplinary approach that helps students develop technical skills and make connections from the classroom to the world of work,” according to Lee County Economic Development Group’s Dana Millard.
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The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council began accepting Scale-Up applications for the 2019-2020 school year January 21st. Applications will be accepted through March 4th. For a complete list of 2019-2020 STEM Scale-Up Programs, and to apply please visit www.iowastem.gov/scale-
“STEM careers with local business and industry is a major focus of our Grow Lee programing and are a vital economic development driver for the growth of SE Iowa and the state” said Millard, the group’s economic development project director.
“Helping promote programs such as STEM Scale-ups are a great way for us to leverage our resources in order to benefit local students.”
The STEM Scale-Up programs range from building robots and coding programs, to conducting agricultural field experiences and learning about STEM careers.
Millard said Lee County is leading Southeast Iowa in its participation in receiving STEM Scale-ups with 92% percent of the county’s 13 public school buildings having received STEM Scale-up funding. That funding equates to more than $60,000 in grants over the past four years. This is in addition to Fort Madison High School and Keokuk High School receiving $25,000 each for the STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) program. Des Moines County has had 33% of their buildings receive a Scale-Up grant over the past four years, Henry County has had 54%, and Louisa County has had 50%.
Kristine Bullock serves as the hub manager for the Governor’s STEM Council for Southeast Iowa. She said the state has six regions and each region receives $500,000 each year to award programs to area schools and organizations.
“We don’t give money to the schools, we use it for training and programming,” Bullock said. “Schools can apply for as many programs as they want. Potentially every teacher could get that training.”
She said since 2011, the state has been allocating money to increase STEM participation at formal and informal school sessions. Informal school sessions could include scout groups, libraries, after-school programs and with 18 counties in southeast Iowa vying for the programming awards, the application process is very important.
Bullock said that Lee County has been able to take advantage of strong partnerships with the STEM council through the work of Lee County Economic Development Group.
“I believe that southeast Iowa and Lee County are either even, if not ahead, of the rest of the state, especially with the help of Lee County Economic Development Group,” Bullock said.
“Dana is on my advisory board and that’s a really great partnership and collaboration that has helped that area. We’re still trying to make sure that every building has high quality STEM programing and we have pockets of excellence, but we need to make sure they have that programming every year. We don’t want them to have that grade where things drop because they aren’t continually thinking with that critical mindset.”
On the Iowa Assessments, students who participated in the STEM Scale-Up Program scored higher than students statewide with an average of three percentage points higher in mathematics and reading, four higher in science.
“Lee County has a lot of STEM career opportunities, including careers that deal with robotics, engineering, math, and science. It’s important that we prepare our students for these careers” said Millard.
To help shape this, Millard sits on the Governor’s SE Iowa STEM Advisory Council. The council is a public-private partnership of educators, companies, and Iowa students and families addressing policies and programs designed to improve Iowa’s educational system focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The STEM Council works to engage and prepare students for a career-ready workforce path, regain Iowa’s historic leadership position in education, and provide a vital competitive economic advantage now, and for the future, to ensure that every Iowa student has access to world-class STEM education opportunities.
“We wanted to try to get the word out that the application process is now open and we would like to see schools, groups, and non-traditional classrooms at all levels take advantage of these program resources,” Bullock said.