STEM BEST® is a win-win-win. It creates projects for students to explore their passions. It opens doors for businesses to contribute to career awareness and shape the future workforce. It presents examples for teachers to connect content areas to the jobs outside school walls. And, it is unifying 18 communities across Iowa, including Delaware County in Northeast Iowa.
West Delaware Community School District earned a STEM BEST award in November 2016, and in the last eight months the team has pulled together a plan for a sustainable program for students this fall. They call it “DelCo BEST”—an emergent school-business partnership of four lead instructors, 16 prospective students and 19 community organizations and businesses. From the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and the Delaware County Historical Society to Rockwell Collins and Loecke Building Services, each partner will attend a “Partner Palooza” this fall to propose ideas and form dedicated teams.
“Community members who are partnered with students will help design the curriculum for each initiative,” said Tim Felderman, West Delaware High School principal. “Partners will initiate projects and provide resources, while mentors will help students learn the skills they need to be successful on a particular task. The instructor will then help align the required tasks to West Delaware High School’s Career Ready Skills.”
The lead instructors from four different content areas designed the model after visiting other STEM BEST models and delving into local professional development to solidify their idea for DelCo BEST. From there, the team built a marketing brand and started informing Delaware County about the new opportunity. By May, the DelCo BEST team grew even larger as they attracted commitments from local leaders who packed a room at their community partnership meeting. Come fall, students will be fully immersed in one of Iowa’s newest work-based learning initiatives focused on connecting classrooms to local businesses and careers.
“Students will be able to set goals, demonstrate persistence, effectively manage time, employ organizational and study skills and utilize technology to enhance their learning,” Felderman said. “The goal of DelCo BEST is to encourage students to follow their passions to solve authentic problems based on business and community needs.”
Ready to start a STEM BEST model in your area? The STEM Council invites proposals from all Iowa public and private schools and districts until September 15 at www.IowaSTEM.gov/STEMBEST/Proposal.