What happens when economic development meets workforce development meets K-12 schools meets STEM education in a rural community such as Jamestown, ND?
Something STEMtastically wonderful – a thoughtful approach to producing a workforce that drives economic development which relies on an existing public education infrastructure.
When Vice President of Economic Development of the Jamestown Stutsman Development Corporation, Mrs. Holly Miller learned of a regional meeting for the Southeast portion of the statewide North Dakota STEM Network being hosted, she reached out to the Great Plains STEM Education Center to learn more. And after joining that September 2013 meeting of the ND STEM Network at at Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo, ND an idea began forming in her mind, an idea that could change Jamestown, population near 15,000, forever.
The Jamestown Stutsman Development Corporation (JSDC) was organized to develop employment to improve business conditions and advance the interests of the City of Jamestown and Stutsman County, North Dakota by implementing and sustaining an organized effort to attract new businesses and industry, support existing businesses and industry, and encourage new business starts. Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corporation’s focus is primary sector job creation.
Paramount to that effort is a school system that responds to local workforce needs by producing graduates who are creative, tenacious problem-solvers, great communicators, collaborative and who understand the dynamics of a global economy – attributes that are at the sweet-spot of STEM education!
With STEM education the need to start early is obvious, initiate an interest through high-impact learning strategies starting in elementary school, then nurture that learning into a STEM literacy while progressing through middle and high school, and ultimately upon graduation motivating an entry into the STEM workforce or continuing that education into either a 2 or 4 year program at a college or university.
Teachers inspiring student learning is the first instinct of many a teachers, integrating STEM strategies for many a new and often challenging, enter the Great Plains STEM Education Center (GPSEC) who are seasoned experts at facilitating professional learning opportunities in STEM, these experts include Executive Director of the GPSEC, Dr. David DeMuth, Jr. and STEM Coordinator Dr. Gary Ketterling.
Miller followed up with an invitation in October, 2013 for a meeting with Jamestown K-12 principals on GPSEC offerings, and then alongside DeMuth presenting to the Jamestown School Board in March, 2014Â referencing an evolving STEM strategy for their school which sets as a priority the graduation of more STEM-literate Jamestown students, and who elect to remain in Jamestown for their careers.
Miller, DeMuth, and Tifanie Gelinske, VP, Workforce Development at Greater Fargo Moorhead EDC then put their heads together on a presentationÂ at the Small Business Innovation Summit that same week in Fargo that spoke to the STEM-loaded economic development strategy, only to repeat that talk Â in April, 2014 when being joined by Praxis Strategy Group associate Mark Schill at the “Take Root” STEM Summit hosted by the North Dakota STEM Network in Bismarck.
Simultaneously DeMuth was working with Dr. Peggy Norris of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) and the EduTech group on a virtual visit to the SURF lab located 4850 feet below the surface, with over 80 Jamestown middle school students and their teachers joining.
After a successful grant for the 2013-14 to the Monsanto Fund that was driving the integration of new technologies at the K-12 Jamestown schools, Superintendent Rob Lech, Joe Hegland, assigned Rae Ann Vandrovec to work on another grant request, this time focused on the STEM strategy, Vandrovec leading the effort with DeMuth partnering on the grant request.
Growing their own workforce in Jamestown is at the core of the Monsanto Fund supportedÂ project now underway in Jamestown, ND. The “Planting Seeds with STEM” program will provide approximately 400 second and fourth grade students in the Jamestown School District with the skills to incorporate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into active learning experiences that will develop skills for solving real-world problems. Sixteen second and fourth grade teachers, alongside learning coaches, from five Jamestown District elementary schools will participate in two full days, and four half days of professional development with the GPSEC to learn pedagogy and the best methodology for teaching STEM principals.
Picture Perfect Science Lessons and Engineering is Elementary curricula, which are research-based and approved by the National Science Teachers’ Assocation, and student kits including consumable materials will be purchased for the sixteen classrooms involved. Planting Seeds with STEM will serve as a pilot program for the district to prove the importance of teaching problem solving through multi-disciplinary STEM methodology to improve learning outcomes; the Jamestown District planning to expand the program to the remaining grades in each of the succeeding two years.
Other components of the STEMtastic Jamestown Project may include:
- STEM-day for 7th and 8th Grade students
- After-school STEMtastic days
- STEM Boot Camp
- Virtual visitations to the SURF 4850 feet underground at Lead, SD, the NOvA Far Detector at Ash River MN, and the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, IL.
- Individualized STEM learning for Jamestown High teachers and their students.
More details and updates to follow…
- Jamestown Public Schools Presentation
- Small Business Innovation Summit Presentation
- ND STEM Summit Presentation
- Planting Seeds with STEM proposal
- JSDC, Miller
- GPSEC, DeMuth
- Jamestown School District