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ECSD is awarded an Iowa STEM Best Award
ECSD is awarded an Iowa STEM Best Award
Darren Hanna
Monday, August 24, 2020

STEM BEST AWARD

2020-21

Secondary Principal Mrs. Christensen and Secondary Teachers Mrs. Saxton and Mrs. Josephson had a dream of finding a way to bring an “Iowa Big” or “No Boundaries” program to Emmetsburg. After some collaboration, they discovered the best way to get this started and get some funding to support this program was to apply for the Stem Best Grant. The group pulled together to submit a grant application and just discovered that Emmetsburg was awarded up to a $25,000 grant to support or implementation of this program. Below are some further details on items submitted as part of our application that includes our current plans. We know some of this may change as we move through the process and collaborate with our business partners and area schools. We are really excited to offer this opportunity to our students and get started on this project.

The STEM BEST Program provides support to school-business partnerships that bring teachers and industry professionals together to design a dynamic curriculum connected to future careers. This program opens the door for students to gain authentic workplace experience where they develop greater knowledge of the skills needed in STEM fields, such as advanced manufacturing, agriculture and health care.

Here is the summary of the project in which we will use the 2020-21 Year to develop a plan and implement these opportunities for our students. We will use the Stem Best Grant to help us collaborate with our community partners and achieve our goal.

The broad goals/strategies for Emmetsburg are to increase opportunities for our students, allow them to explore opportunities available in Emmetsburg and grow our own opportunities to make our students future ready.  We want students to collaborate with area businesses and create self-motivation within themselves to improve and return to Emmetsburg to continue to grow our community. We would like to see businesses in our community present projects to our students in order to partner with them and allow them to develop real world skills. We see a variety of our high school students interested in this program and hope to grow the numbers as the program grows. This program may be open to all students in grades 7-12 through an application process and we want this project to be a hook to keep students in school and motivated to complete their education.

Through this program, we plan to offer real world and relevant opportunities that don’t exist in the traditional school setting for students. Students in grades 7-12 will have the opportunity to participate in this Project and we hope to be able to partner with No Boundaries in Spencer during the fall of 2021. By creating partnerships between community groups, businesses, and higher education, we hope to allow our students to engage in project-based learning in a professional setting. A pilot of this project called Iowa NW Big, will take place in the Spring of 2021 with 7th and 8th graders at Emmetsburg Middle School. This pilot will involve approximately 6 students and 2 teachers following the exact design of the No Boundaries Project in Spencer and Iowa Big. During this pilot, continued research and development will take place moving towards a Fall 2021 launch of the Iowa NW Big Project in grades 7-12 with students from our District partnering with students in neighboring communities involved in the No Boundaries Project. Potential partnerships have already been formed with the following local businesses and community entities: Iowa Lakes Community College, Iowa State University Extension Office, and Emmetsburg Chamber of Commerce. Administrators and teacher leaders from Emmetsburg School District have visited with Iowa BIG and Iowa BIG North representatives several times over the past couple of school years. They are eager to expand their model and have students from Northwest Iowa engaged in this style of project based learning. Beyond STEM, students at Iowa BIG have been earning credits in core and elective courses. We will take that same approach in this consortium.

The model that we are looking to propose would be open to students in grades 7-12 regardless of grade point average. Students from underrepresented populations in STEM (females, ethnic/racial minorities, and students with disabilities) would be encouraged to enroll and would spend up to half of an academic day immersed in this profession-based learning model. The Emmetsburg Community School District serves students in a rural community with nearly 48% of students served in our district qualifying for free/reduced lunch. Students will be accepted into this Project through an application process, and students from underrepresented groups in STEM education will be recruited and encouraged to apply.

We had to identify how we are currently planning to continue this program in our District. Here is our current plan:

We have been in conversations with the local No Boundaries coordinators and program facilitators at Graettinger-Terril Ruthven-Ayrshire, Spencer and Okoboji.  We have requested an application to join the program during the 2021-2022 school year.  Emmetsburg's plan for the 2020-21 school year is to research what this program can offer students, how to offer more STEM opportunities for our students and how to develop the current multi-occupational program to involve more students. We are looking to increase the opportunities for our students in Career and Technical Education classes and programs in both middle school and high school.  Emmetsburg School District is committed to researching and developing a plan to launch this program at Emmetsburg. We plan to commit resources to this project, including salaries, man hours, and professional development. Our District is positioned to staff teachers into this Project via the Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) grant, which will cover the initial need for teachers in this area. Because of the uniqueness of this model, multiple areas of content can be delivered, allowing for both core and elective credit to be obtained. With this in mind, we will be able to shift our current teaching staff from the traditional model into the No Boundaries model without adding additional staff to support the student needs in this program.

We understand having an off campus space for students, business leaders, and community partners to collaborate is critical to the success of this program. We plan to use this first year to collaborate with community partners and determine the best off-campus location and have it outfitted with student work spaces, furniture, and a media setup that will allow for online communication. In this way, students from different school districts will be able to collaborate with each other and community partners throughout the duration of the project.

To be considered for a STEM BEST Program partner, we were required to submit a comprehensive proposal that included thorough and relevant STEM curriculum, valuable partnerships with community businesses or organizations, real-world learning opportunities and expertise at the post secondary education and training level. As an awardee, we will serve as a model to share unique perspectives, strengths, demographics and program focus with other schools throughout Iowa.

A big thanks and congratulations to Mrs. Christensen, Mrs. Saxton, and Mrs. Josephson for their work on bringing this grant and program to ECSD.