Five hundred Idaho educators are gearing up to take part in a series of science, technology, engineering and math professional development institutes across the state.
The Idaho STEM Initiative, or i-STEM, is organizing the five regional workshops as a way to help teachers build capacity and prepare students for college and careers.
Anne Seifert, the i-STEM executive director and K-12 STEM outreach manager, said Idaho National Laboratory leaders, educators and employers partnered to create the project.
The goal was to bring more of a focus to science, technology, engineering and math in the classroom, prepare students for higher-paying and in-demand jobs and to replace an aging engineering and tech work force preparing for retirement.
Seifert said the program has made great strides by reaching hundreds of educators and bringing STEM subjects into focus.
In some cases, she said, educators attending the first institute three years ago were not even familiar with the STEM acronym.
“We want to make a cultural shift,” Seifert said. “Tools today are based on an industrial age model. We need teachers to teach in ways that students can innovate.”
During the institutes, teachers will hear from national speakers. Through the duration of the workshop, they will study a topic of their choice, be it engineering, semiconductors, mining or 25 other areas.
The first i-STEM institutes were held in 2010 in Twin Falls and northern Idaho, but demand quickly outpaced the openings. That led organizers to expand to Meridian and Pocatello. This year, they added an institute in Idaho Falls, and plan to bring Lewis-Clark State College into the mix next year.
In fact, so many educators tried to enroll in last year’s STEM programs that the registration website was overwhelmed and briefly crashed.
“The institutes filled within 24 hours this year,” Seifert said. “Teachers tell us it’s like waiting in line for tickets to a rock concert.”
I-STEM is a partnership between colleges, governments and industry. Members include Idaho National Laboratory, Micron, Idaho Power, the state’s universities and community colleges, the State Department of Education and the Idaho State Board of Education.
The project is funded by industry contributions, in-kind donations, nonprofits and a math and science outreach grant.
That funding allows organizers to pay for the teachers to attend and for professional materials they can bring back to their classrooms, Seifert said.
Summer instates are set for the following locations this month:
- June 17-20, North Idaho College, Coeur d’Alene.
- June 17-20, Idaho State University, Pocatello.
- June 17-19, Eastern Idaho Technical College, Idaho Falls.
- June 24-27, College of Southern Idaho, Twin Falls.
- June 25-27, University of Phoenix, Meridian.
Check back with Idaho Ed News at the end of the month for a report from one of the i-STEM institutes.