Connecting schools and businesses is one of the main goals of the STEM Council. Whether that business is a global manufacturer or a rural service supplier, the Iowa STEM Teacher Externships program unites the producers of talent (schools) with the employers of talent (business and industry) for mutual benefit.
Over the eight years of this successful program nearly 120 Iowa workplaces have hosted more than 340 Teacher Externs for six-week summer immersions that help companies’ bottom lines while improving STEM teaching in local schools. A map of workplace hosts across Iowa may be viewed here.
Major employers such as Kemin Industries and John Deere, as well as regional manufacturers like Rosenboom Machine and Tool and American Profol, have all benefited by welcoming in teachers who take on projects that bring value to the company while equipping them to modernize school lessons that guide students to careers in the community.
Take for example GKN Wheels in Estherville which has hosted nine Teacher Externs since 2012 and plans to host three more this summer. Last year, GKN developed projects needing completion that suited teachers of industrial technology, physics and statistics.
Jennifer Poole, a mathematics and physics teacher at Estherville Lincoln Central High, gathered data on paint usage and created a new plan that updated paint usage estimates, preventing future waste and saving the company money. Now, she has taken this project to the classroom, empowering students to find their own solutions to the problem.
“Another big part I’d want to bring back to my classroom is the fact that sometimes there’s not just one correct answer,” she said. “Very rarely in life do we have every little thing accounted for, and we need to be able to decide which factors are important and which ones we can leave out or just estimate.”