Governor Kim Reynolds and the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council announced Ames Community School District’s Science in the City as one of the 22 STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) Program models for 2021. The STEM Best Program supports school-business partnerships that allow teachers and industry professionals to work side-by-side on curriculum and projects that give students actual workplace experience. In the projects, students also gain an understanding of the opportunities and required skills for careers in STEM fields.
Science in the City (SitC) was designed to raise awareness about how STEM is used in every career and business venture. This program partners middle school student teams with a high school mentor and local business. Teams are challenged to collaborate with their partner business in order to explore how they use STEM on a day-to-day basis. With that knowledge, teams build hands-on demonstrations to showcase the use of STEM and present their findings at a final Science in the City public event.
“Textbook science and exploratory science are two different things,” said Katrina Williams, middle school advisor for SitC. “Not all students are apt to open a textbook and do problems but are more likely to do a practical application. [SitC] shows that STEM is invigorating and it’s fun.”
The STEM Council Executive Committee voted unanimously to award 22 new or expanded partnerships up to $25,000 each. Participating employer partners contribute to a dollar-for-dollar match with some going above and beyond the cost-share requirement. The awards can be used for the curriculum development and coordination, educator training and development in workplace-classroom integration and preparing the work-based learning environment. With the addition of 22 awards, 80 programs have been created since STEM BEST launched in 2014. STEM BEST has also laid the groundwork for other successful statewide initiatives such as Future Ready Iowa’s Work-Based Learning Clearinghouse.
To be considered for a STEM BEST Program award, applicants were required to submit a comprehensive proposal that incorporates rigorous and relevant STEM curriculum, valuable partnerships with community businesses or organizations, real-world learning opportunities and expertise at the post-secondary education and training level. These awardees will serve as a model to share unique perspectives, strengths, demographics and program focus with other schools throughout Iowa.