In an effort to strengthen science, technology, engineering and math education in Northwest Indiana, local school systems have been taking exciting strides in providing adequate instruction to their students seeking careers in the fast-growing fields of STEM.
In 2014, Crown Point, Gary, Hammond, Hebron, Hobart, Munster and Merrillville schools were collectively awarded a three-year Math Science Partnership grant, which provides for professional development for seventh, eighth and ninth grade math and science teachers. The MSP grant focuses on strengthening engineering instruction through the integration of math, science and engineering practices and process standards to develop STEM units of instruction.
After receiving the grant, the STEM Innovations Program was formed as a partnership with Purdue University North Central and the seven school districts to build the desired STEM content knowledge and strong teaching skills. The partnership strengthens STEM-focused middle- and high-school leadership and instructional capacity during the three-year professional development for 185 math and science teachers in 14 middle and high schools in Lake and Porter Counties.
The STEM Innovations Program has built a regional classroom teacher and school administrative network to promote partnerships with other schools, post-secondary institutions, communities and business. Additionally, the program has enlisted state and national experts, including the Science Outreach Team from Purdue West Lafayette, the National Science Teachers Association and the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
The grant has helped implement STEM goals by creating a week-long STEM Innovations Summer Institute offered the past two summers. During the institute, math and science teachers are given the opportunity to focus on the Indiana Academic Standards for Math and Science as well as the Next Generation Science Standards to create engaging and interactive math and science lessons for students. They also focused on college and career readiness and STEM career options while discovering new ways to increase interest of female students and underrepresented populations in the STEM fields.
The results were a success. Teachers from the seven school districts said the modeled activities were helpful and could be easily implemented within their classrooms to engage students in STEM. Students who were in these classrooms felt more engaged in experiencing a real world problem and coming up with a product or solution for their clients.
The Center of Workforce Innovations and the Regional Education/Employer Alliance for Developing Youth (READY NWI) have continued to provide ongoing strategic support and networking opportunities during the implementation of the MSP grant. These efforts promote the importance of local and regional action to develop education and workforce partnerships, with the goal of creating and sustaining a college- and career-ready workforce aligned to employer skills and education needs.
With one more year of support from the MSP grant, and strong regional collaboration, the region has much to look forward to in further growth of STEM education programs.