These elementary students at Cowles Montessori School in Des Moines are representative of more than 100,000 students the STEM Scale-Up programs reach every year.


Behind the Curtain: 
Scale-Up in Iowa STEM 

Professionals, the saying goes, make the difficult look easy. The people behind the scenes, bringing top-notch STEM to thousands of educators and 10 times more youth across Iowa, navigate many potholes in the process. To the casual observer, recipients of the program and watchers from other states, it's a smooth ride, but here is a glimpse "behind the curtain" as homage to the professionals who make the signature STEM Scale-Up initiative work.


Seventeen Iowans volunteered to filter would-be Scale-Up programs, 14 of whom endured training sessions through November to score proposals over the winter holiday season. Their investment of many hours of work winnowed the pool from 33 proposals to four recommended to the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council's executive committee for a vote.


By January, Iowa's regional managers, working with the four new providers for 2015-16 alongside the renewed 10 from 2014-15, opened up marketing, recruitment and promotion season to Iowa's educators. Innumerable idiosyncrasies, budget nuances and capacity issues across the 14 Scale-Up partners challenged the full suite of skills of the STEM Network manager team. Each is on a full-court press through March 9's application deadline to drum up interest.  


Come spring break, the regional board members will weigh hundreds of applications by need, geography and local demand. By April, contracts will bind six regional institutions to 14 program providers for the delivery of excellent curriculum, materials and professional development to more than 2,000 teachers and 100,000 of Iowa's most deserving youngsters during the 2015-16 school year.


On the heels of countless trainings, classroom visits, material shipments, invoices, reports and troubleshooting on the part of both programmers and managers, the evaluation consortium will swoop in to measure the impact of all the activity. The stage will then be set for a new-and-improved STEM Scale-Up season for 2016-17.


Visit to learn more about the Scale-Up program or apply for a program by March 9. 


South Central Regional STEM Manager Sarah Derry recognized her region's recipient of the STEM Education Award for Inspired Teaching, Kacia Cain, a biotechnology teacher at Des Moines Central Campus, earlier this week.


STEM Day at the Capitol


Governor Terry Branstad acknowledges the progress in Iowa STEM at the annual STEM Day at the Capitol earlier this month.


Mark McDermott, math teacher in Guthrie Center, Iowa, worked as a Teacher Extern at Rosenboom Manufacturing in Spirit Lake last summer.

Outstanding STEM educators recognized with inaugural award


The STEM Council partnered with Kemin Industries this year to seek out and recognize six of the best STEM teachers in Iowa. 


Considering all of the superior educators around Iowa, it was a highly-competitive award that brought in more than 150 applications. A panel of judges had the difficult task of selecting just one teacher from each STEM region, who demonstrated an unparalleled dedication of inspiring students to explore the world of STEM in Iowa. The 2015 recipients are (listed geographically):


Northwest STEM Region: Mike Wedge, science teacher and STEM coordinator at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School, has participated in the STEM Council's Teacher Externship program and has created STEM-focused curriculum and STEM camps.


North Central STEM Region: Shelly Vanyo, science teacher and department head at Boone High School, formed local business partnerships to advance STEM in her school and developed unique learning experiences for her students.

Northeast STEM Region: Lisa Chizek, fifth- and sixth-grade teacher and STEM coordinator at North Tama Elementary School, has created a STEM Expert Day where she brings in professionals from various STEM fields to educate her students on their jobs and how STEM is a part of it.


Southwest STEM Region:

Allison Gregg, second-grade teacher at Sidney Elementary School, utilizes her resources to connect with a NASA educator by Skype to help her students learn about the solar system and the Mars Rover.


South Central STEM Region: Kacia Cain, biotechnology teacher at Des Moines Central Campus, partners with STEM industry businesses, including Kemin Industries and DuPont Pioneer, to teach her students about the bioethics of GMO's and other timely topics.


Southeast STEM Region: Jason Franzenburg, technology educator at Davenport West High School, created a new curriculum in partnership with the Scott County Waste Commission that includes guest speakers, hands-on projects and field trips to learn about the life-cycle of consumer products and how to make them better.


After being nominated for the award, each teacher completed an application demonstrating their dedication to STEM education. All six teachers earned $1,500 for personal use and another $1,500 for their classroom.


Sign up by March 15 for the 2015 Statewide STEM Summit on March 30 to see the formal award ceremony and special panel session featuring the awardees and their take on the best practices for STEM in the classroom.


Congratulations to our inaugural STEM Education Award recipients and may you inspire all of us to strive for the best STEM education for young Iowans.

STEM showcased at the Statehouse  


With the goal of showing Iowa lawmakers how far STEM in Iowa has come while having quite a distance yet to go, the STEM Council alongside partners in STEM from across Iowa impressed legislators (and each other) with hands-on, interactive and student-focused learning innovations at STEM Day at the Capitol.

Sponsored in part by John Deere, Pella Corp. and Rockwell Collins, the Feb. 19 event featured 33 exhibits from STEM Scale-Up programs and the students engaged in them to a few of our dedicated corporate partners, higher education institutions, youth agencies and nonprofits.

Governor Terry Branstad with Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds and Senator Brian Schoenjahn began with remarks reflecting on the importance of STEM education and the state's passion to continue the STEM Council's work toward achieving "STEM for all."

"It's pretty exciting to see how far we've come in such a short period of time," Governor Branstad said at the event. "Giving all students a world-class education must include first-rate STEM education and STEM opportunities."

Between the exhibitors and the legislators invited, the Capitol Rotunda drew in more than 350 people focused on the STEM happening around Iowa.

Watch the short video above for an inside look on the day's event and the people involved and send an e-mail to [email protected] if you would like to be involved in similar events in the future.


MVP for Iowa STEM: Rosenboom Manufacturing 


Rosenboom Manufacturing recognized early on the need of developing and supporting the local community. That is why, in 2012, the company became an MVP (most valuable partner) with the STEM Council and the Real-World Externship Program for Teachers of mathematics, science and technology.  


Since then, six Teacher Externs, each representing a different school district within five different communities in northwest Iowa, have worked directly with the custom hydraulic cylinder manufacturer.


Jack Schreurs, human resources director at Rosenboom Manufacturing, said the program benefits both the teachers and the company, sharing insights that meet each other's needs and help them learn along the way. The Teacher Externs have helped Rosenboom Manufacturing on special projects, including improving the training for new employees and developing new methods of material usage analysis to increase the company's savings.


"The program has benefited Rosenboom by making us more aware of the goals and needs of the participating teachers and the schools that they represent," Schreurs said. "We trust that the program has benefited teachers by giving them a better understanding of the evolving skill-sets our employees need to be successful as well as the many challenges facing our industry--not just Rosenboom."


Making Teacher Externs aware of these challenges is only one part of Rosenboom Manufacturing's involvement with Iowa STEM. The company also works with students at Spencer High School, giving mock interviews for those interested in pursuing STEM fields, and helped develop curriculum for a manufacturing academy at Okoboji High School.


"Today's students are our future," Schreurs said. "Almost every organization recognizes that. We believe that we have a responsibility for preparing students for the future and, while we have no intention of displacing the school or dictating their curriculum or instructional models, we are committed to being a resource wherever and however reasonably possible."


That is the spirit which makes Rosenboom Manufacturing an "MVP" to Iowa STEM. Find out how to get involved with the Real-World Teacher Externships Program or read the "Guidelines for Business-Education Partnerships in STEM" to learn about other opportunities within the STEM Council.    


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