BEST practices in business-education partnerships paid forward

STEM Council Executive Committe Member Rob Denson speaks in Ankeny
Des Moines Area Community College President and STEM Council Executive Committee Member Rob Denson helped kick off the inaugural STEM BEST Event in Ankeny earlier this month.

No more “take a seat” or “open your textbooks.” Instead, “get to work” is what students can look forward to when they enter STEM BEST (Business Engaging Students and Teachers) classrooms popping up across Iowa thanks to partnerships driven by the STEM Council. Strategies for success in bridging the business-education chasm were aplenty at the first-of-its-kind STEM BEST event this month.

More than 140 community partners packed the conference room of the FFA Enrichment Center in Ankeny, representing K-12 education (47 percent), higher education (20 percent), business and industry (23 percent) and nonprofits or other interested stakeholders (10 percent).

Breakout sessions spanned over a dozen topics, including how to form business-education partnerships through collaborations. An essential shared by one of Iowa’s STEM BEST awardees is to learn from each triumph and to “fail forward.” This fall, an estimated 315 students will partake in the five STEM BEST programs with the involvement of more than 140 local business partners.

“It is about partnerships,” said Maureen Griffin, school improvement leader at Hoover High School. “When we partner with someone who really wants to make a difference, that is when something magnificent happens, and that is what is being asked of you today.”

Griffin, alongside Eric Hall, International Baccalaureate program coordinator at Hoover High School, led their morning session about the integration of technology in the classroom. It featured a hands-on activity inviting participants to list out the ideals of today’s high school graduates, which led to a discussion on whether or not the classroom, current math or science standards and an external partnership could help students achieve them.

Attendees received great coaching on what it takes to launch and sustain a school – business partnership. Then Jeff Weld, executive director of the STEM Council, provided the “how” with the announcement of a call for proposals for additional STEM BEST or STEM Redesigned Learning Environment (RLE) partnerships in the coming year. The proposal window will open on July 6 at www.IowaSTEM.gov/Proposals/STEM-BEST-RLE and this fall, the STEM Council will award at least one model in each of the six STEM regions.

To learn more about Iowa’s STEM BEST models, visit www.IowaSTEM.gov/STEMBEST.