Starting a new program in an educational setting is a challenge at any level. But when the program is based on a play devised by the Governor of the State of Iowa, the challenge to get the program up, running and living up to some lofty goals is even more pronounced.
For Kari Webb of Spirit Lake, her position as the Coordinator for the Northwest Iowa STEM Hub is just a few weeks old, and yet, she has been on the road, visiting schools through Northwest Iowa to explain just what it is that STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, can do for students.
Iowa Lakes Community College was selected as one of the six STEM Hubs, or "home bases" in the state for the initiative formulated by Governor Terry Branstad as a way to bring Iowa back to the forefront of educational excellence in the United States. The focus of STEM is to encourage students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to pursuing a career path in science and technology and to take those courses at the college and university level.
Webb, who came to the STEM Coordinator's position from the Spirit Lake Community Schools, has had a full slate of visits to school districts to explain how the STEM initiative has money available to promote science, technology, engineering and math programs. But, the funds are not limited to just schools. Other non-profit organizations, such as 4-H clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, FFA chapters and the like can apply for STEM grant money.
But other non-profit groups like 4-H and Scouts also can apply for grant money.
The Iowa Lakes STEM Hub has been allocated $450,000 to distribute throughout the Northwest Iowa hub, which extends from Estherville to Sioux City.
"For Iowa Lakes to be chosen as the hub for Northwest Iowa really says something about the quality of education in this area," Webb noted. "There are probably 90 to100 schools in the Northwest Iowa hub area, and there are several applicants for the STEM funding. I receive emails and phone calls about the STEM Funds every day."
Through the STEM initiative, a total of 12 program areas have been identified for "Scale Ups", or emphasis during the 2012-2013 school year. The program areas that have been selected were chosen for their ability to bring the concepts of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math to students.
Selected as Scale Up programs were:
- FIRST Lego League,
- First Tech Challenge
- Kid Wind
- A World in Motion
- Engineering is Elementary
- iExplore STEM
- CASE: Ag Ed
- Project H.O.PE
- State Science/Tech Fairs
"The exciting thing about these Scale Up programs is that any one can apply for a STEM grant to conduct one of the programs," Webb explained. "A teacher, a Scout master, a 4-H leader can fill out the one-page, user-friendly application."
However, time is of the essence. The deadline for the first round of STEM applications is Sept. 14.
"I don't know if I'll get a 100 applications and the money will be gone or if there will be a second-round. It's important to get the applications in early," Webb said.
Mark Zabawa, a chemistry and biology instructor at Iowa Lakes Community College is also a member of the Northwest Iowa STEM Hub Advisory Board. "I'm looking forward to getting the kids excited about science and technology," he said. "There's a great need for these skills in Iowa."
Both Webb and Zabawa agree that a primary goal of the state STEM program is to train teachers in science, math and technology so that there are more teachers who can teach their peers.
For more information on the STEM program, contact Kari Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org.