For teachers, there is no better way to kick off the school year than with a new lesson plan in hand completely inspired by a summer spent chin-deep in the world of business and industry.
At what has become an annual tradition, Teacher Externs and their Business Hosts, representing local businesses and agencies across the state, gathered in August to share ideas and strategies for continuously improving the program. Then, teachers assembled into content-area focus groups to collaborate on the design of the learning experiences to be implemented into their classrooms throughout Iowa this fall.
Governor Kim Reynolds, co-chair of the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council, and Executive Director Jeff Weld started the event with remarks on the success of the STEM Teacher Externships program over the last seven years, including the findings that 96 percent of Business Hosts agree or strongly agree that Teacher Externs provide significant contributions to their business during the summer, and more than 90 percent of Teacher Externs agreed or strongly agreed that the experience is the best professional development they have had.
Breakout sessions in the morning highlighted the summer experiences from both the teacher and business perspectives. Business Hosts agreed that they liked the ability to set the goals for the Teacher Externs and provide them with real-word projects to complete—not just busy work.
“If there’s a job to be done, give it to a teacher,” said David Jahn, arborist with the Des Moines Public Works, in one breakout session. “They are inquisitive naturally, and for me, they brought me energy and enthusiasm.”
Teacher Externs had the chance to develop their lesson plans and share across curriculums with other STEM teachers. All agreed that not only did they leave with new STEM perspectives, but they also realized the importance of integrating 21st century skills into their curriculum.
“After this, I’m starting to look at problem-solving, writing skills and communication for my students. I don’t think I make them stand-up and talk in front of the class enough,” said Mary Glenn, life science teacher at Ames Middle School, who worked with Barilla America in Ames this summer.
For an inside look at three of this summer’s STEM Teacher Externships, watch the videos at www.IowaSTEM.gov/Externships/videos, or visit www.IowaSTEM.gov/Externships for more information about becoming a Teacher Extern or Business Host for summer 2016.