Khoi Nguyen and Gabriela Alvarez at Lewis Central High School work together to build projects as part of Project Lead the Way's Principles of Engineering, which is one of 14 Scale-Up programs serving thousands of teachers and students this year.

 

STEM Council broadens Scale-Up menu for 2015-2016 

One of the largest statewide programs initiated by the Governor's STEM Advisory Council beefed up its menu of offerings for the upcoming Scale-Up season. Scale-Up involves casting a wide net across the country for the best known STEM projects and reeling them in for educators throughout Iowa.

 

It has proven successful in changing the lives of both teachers and children. Over the last three years, several thousand educators have participated, including PreK-12 teachers, after-school club leaders, Extension and 4-H professionals, daycare providers and other active learning community members.

 

According to the latest Iowa STEM monitoring report, 75 percent of educators say they gained confidence in teaching kids about STEM as a result with about 75 percent sticking with the projects after the STEM Council's financial support ends. The number of participating Iowa youth over the last three years is well into the six figures with only a handful of the state's 338 school districts yet to participate.

 

The report shows students who take part in a Scale-Up program are more interested in STEM classes and careers, and planners are pleased to note that these strong efforts to reach all Iowa youth have resulted in participation proportions matching Iowa's ethnic, racial, economic and geographic diversity.


This month, the 2015-2016 Scale-Up program menu debuted, ranging from mathematical sense-making, to building of robots, carts and wind turbines, to computer programming, to agricultural science and to STEM career awareness. Best of all -- most are delivered at no cost to the educator.

 

All 14 projects have a proven appeal to diverse youth, a demonstrated success in improving academic performance, evidence of integrating STEM concepts, proof of fostering school-business-community partnerships and track records of sustainability after the STEM Council's seed funding.  

Iowa's Scale-Up initiative cuts right to the heart of the matter -- find what works and deliver it across Iowa. Educators interested in bringing the best of STEM to their learners may apply until March 9 at  

www.IowaSTEM.gov/2015-16Scale-Up.

 
Iowa's Microsoft IT Academy aims to meet the need for employees skilled in Microsoft Office by targeting school districts and community colleges, including these students at Alburnett High School.

Iowa has the second-largest one-to-one deployment of digital devices in the United States according to this map developed by AEA 267.

 

Jenna Noble, a science teacher at George-Little High School, gets a hands-on, behind-the-scenes look at welding as a Teacher Extern within Sudenga Industries, a Northwest Iowa manufacturing company.
A key STEM program for Iowa: Microsoft IT Academy

  

The "T" in STEM got a big lift in November 2013 when the STEM Council partnered with Microsoft's IT Academy program after a competitive bid process to fund student certification in software and technology. Within just a few weeks of opening the application, more than 90 schools had registered, demonstrating the great demand for the program. 

 

Slightly over a year later, funding for the program was renewed by the Iowa legislature and for good reason. In its mere 14-month duration, Microsoft IT Academy has acquired a waiting list and is serving at capacity to a mixture of 150 school districts and community colleges. So far, the program has certified more than 800 teachers and students throughout the state-some as young as middle school. 

 

According to a recent International Data Corporation (IDC) Employer Survey, Microsoft Office skills are the second highest sought-after trait by employers, and other states are taking notice. Iowa was the11th state to implement Microsoft IT Academy, and now, there are more than 20 others following suit.

 

It is because of this demand that Ann Watts, the project manager on behalf of the STEM Council, said the certification numbers are on track to double this year. Right now, the program receives a $500,000 legislative appropriation, which pays for 150 certification sites. That means, the program is almost half-way in bringing IT Academy certifications to the 338 school districts of Iowa.

 

"If there is a skill set more broadly valued across the business and industry universe than a basic command of information technology, I am hard-pressed to know what it could be," said Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, co-chair of the STEM Council. "That is why the Governor's STEM Advisory Council is so very pleased to partner with Microsoft IT Academy to provide our outstanding Iowa educators with the tools needed to prepare today's students for tomorrow's careers."

 

To learn more about the Microsoft IT Academy or fill out an application of interest for the program's waiting list, please visit www.IowaSTEM.gov/mita.

  

Connecting every acre, every Iowan

 

The "Broadband for Iowa" committee continues to work towards fulfilling a STEM Council priority to bring broadband connectivity to all Iowans.

 

The initiative formed after a proposal created by the STEM Council's Executive Committee garnered support from Governor Branstad in 2013. He commissioned the committee as part of the STEM Council and charged the group with three tasks: create a legislative recommendation, develop a strategic plan for broadband deployment and identify federal funding for the project.

 

John Carver, co-chair of the committee and superintendent of the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District, said the main reason for broadband connectivity in Iowa is focused on the fact that Iowa has the highest number of school-issued, one-to-one devices in the nation behind Maine.

 

"Education needs to break out of its silo. If you talk to John Deere, Boeing Aircraft or NASA, their engineers are digitally-connected and sharing information back and forth, creating via the Internet and digital device," Carver said. "So, if that's the 21st century reality, it needs to be reflected in our schools."

 

The committee made a recommendation in 2014 that, according to Carver, received widespread support from legislators, yet did not reach a consensus. One challenge to statewide support on this matter is that Iowa houses the greatest number of broadband providers than any other state in the nation. Carver said aligning resources and gaining universal support for a singular tactic or solution is the toughest roadblock.

 

"The Governor's made this a priority, the STEM Council has put STEM education in every classroom and­ the state has one of the highest deployments of one-to-one devices," Carver said. "The only part that is missing to take Iowa to the next level and position it as a leader in the 21st century is broadband connectivity."

 

The committee has refocused its recommendations on broadband connectivity and plans to reintroduce the topic during the current legislative session. For more information on the efforts, visit  https://governor.iowa.gov/connect/

Building bridges from schools to businesses

 

Iowa's STEM revolution extends beyond a focus on students. The STEM Council's Real-World Externships program targets teachers, providing them with valuable STEM experience and professional development that can be reintegrated into their classroom, and that is exactly what is happening.

 

Last year's evaluation of the program showed that 93 percent of Teacher Externs agreed their experience was more valuable than any other form of professional development. When those teachers returned to the classroom, 66 percent said their students seemed more engaged in topics related to their Externship and 75 percent said their students expressed an interest in STEM careers.

 

During its five-year lifespan, the program has partnered with 42 businesses and agencies that have hosted 57 secondary teachers for full-time, six-week summer experiences. From building ride control systems at John Deere to analyzing years of financial data at Ellison Technologies, every business host offers a variety of STEM experiences that match the interests and curriculum taught by each Teacher Extern.

 

The businesses benefit, too. Besides the monetary value of having an additional professional on site for the summer, industry and agency partners receive a "fresh perspective" of their business operations and establish valuable partnerships with teachers and their affiliated schools. They have the opportunity to directly communicate to the teacher the workforce skills needed of their future employees, which will then help teachers develop those skills in their students.

 

To apply for this summer's sixth year of Externships, business partners and interested teachers can do so at www.IowaSTEM.gov/externships.

 
CLICK HERE FOR THIS MONTH'S
Stay Connected
Governor's STEM Advisory Council Operations Center
UNI, 214 East Bartlett Hall, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0298 
Contributors to this edition: Jeff Weld, Angel Mendez, and Kari Jastorff