If you teach a kid to fish, she'll eat for a lifetime.
However, if you let that kid investigate a local fish population, working alongside regional experts in fish management in the local aquatic environment---she may develop a love of STEM which will launch a career in sustainable resources, with the goal of feeding the whole planet.
I am increasingly convinced that an essential component of STEM education is the inclusion of locally relevant problem solving. In my eSTEMation, this is the hook which will capture the minds and the hearts of our youngest problem solvers. We need to match STEM-mentors with teachers and students, and then encourage everyone to jump into the deeper waters of collaborative, student-centered, problem-based learning.
STEM challenges are real, and real challenges often involve failure, messiness and unexpected complications (anyone who has ever gone camping knows the truth of this statement). The role of the STEM professional is to help students press through the inevitable set-backs, ultimately establishing precisely the sort of tenacity (i.e. grit) that Iowa's future demands.
In my eSTEMation, Iowa should cast the STEM-net in deep water, bringing together STEM business partners, non-formal educators, teachers, learners and some local, fresh, "catch of the day" problem solving.