In support of Community Partnerships in STEM

Science Saturday, with Tarrant Institute research fellow Mark OlofsonHere in Vermont we’re lucky to have a strong sense of community spirit. Co-ops, partnerships, collectives; these concepts run through many different parts of our lives. We also happen to live in a state with a rich and developing science and technology start-up scene. These two parts of our culture can combine to grow partnerships between schools, teachers, students, and businesses. These partnerships can result in rich and authentic learning experiences, where all the parties involved benefit.

These types of relationships can come in all shapes and sizes. One place where partnerships are central to the concept and foundation of the school is at the STEM Academy in Essex (@EssexSTEM). Lea Ann Smith has been working for years to make the Academy a reality. Community partners provide internship opportunities for students, providing the students real-world experience and the partners with driven and inquisitive interns. Partners also participate in putting on a lecture series for the students.STEM LOGO Lectures give students the chance to imagine all the different types of careers that their education can lead to, and hear from some top people in their fields. Last fall Lea Ann created an advisory board, bringing on a number of organizations to help shape the Academy and foster long-lasting relationships.

Of course, not all partnerships are at the institutional level. Teachers and groups of students can work with individuals or groups within organizations, to help provide guidance on a project, to conduct an interview about careers, or to offer advice on technology curriculum. The goal is to link students to the world outside the school walls, to give them authentic learning opportunities, and to help them imagine what their future can look like.

I gave a talk last weekend at Vermont Code Camp about community partnerships. The audience was a number of people in the technology sector, and my purpose was to encourage them to participate in partnerships for education. The slides and audio are embedded below, but the main points were pretty basic: students need to learn technology skills, teachers and schools already have a lot of initiatives to respond to, so partnerships with organizations in the tech sector can help make this a reality. Sadly capturing audio the day of didn’t pan out, and so I wasn’t able to record the great discussion that followed. In in we discussed many different shapes and sizes of partnerships, from sponsoring an after-school coding club to identifying students for internships. The message I came away with was clear: science and technology companies are interested.

Do your students work with organizations in the science and technology community? Tell us about it in the comments! Also, as always, if you know about something we should be talking about here at Science Saturday, let us know!

 

 

Author

Mark W. Olofson

Mark is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in the Education Leadership and Policy Studies program at the University of Vermont. He previously taught Middle and High School science and math. Mark has been with TIIE since Fall 2013.

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