ERC Continues Strong Partnership with Local Schools, Emphasizing STEM for Teachers and Students
The Center for Biorenewable Chemicals (CBiRC), an NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) headquartered at Iowa State University, has provided STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) professional development opportunities for numerous teachers currently employed in 28 local schools and has increased significantly the STEM qualifications and interests of local students.
The impact of CBiRC on the Des Moines School District is widespread. Following the ERC's 2013 summer professional development programs there will be over 100 teachers who have benefitted from sponsored STEM professional development. Because each teacher is in contact with over 100 students each year, it is estimated that each year 10,000 students in the District are learning some aspect of biorenewables from a teacher who is now trained to engage students in a more challenging, inquiry-based manner. Additionally, over 75% of the alumni of the ERC's Young Engineers and Scientists (YES) program are currently enrolled in college in a STEM field.
At its inception, CBiRC established a strong partnership with the Des Moines Public Schools District (DSMPSD), the largest in Iowa (30,000 students, 63 schools, 49% underrepresented minority enrollment, and over 60% students receiving free or reduced lunch). CBiRC’s vision was to (1) provide STEM professional development to the DSMPSD so that science and pre-engineering teachers will think and perform as 21st century scientists and engineers, and (2) produce a diverse set of high school graduates who are ready to meet the demands and challenges of the 21st century and be more competitive in STEM fields (see figure). To realize this vision, strong collaborations were forged between the district science and technology coordinators, school improvement leaders, and school principals.
Many initial discussions were held between CBiRC and the collaborating individuals to brainstorm the most productive ways the ERC could support and impact the DSMPSD. CBiRC education leadership followed recommendations from DSMPSD staff; since those early days, all of the ERC's educational programs are developed and implemented as joint efforts. The DSMPSD, its superintendent and leadership, and at least a third of its schools are benefiting from CBiRC’s presence in Iowa.