Applications open for Ybarra’s new Student Advisory Council

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra is looking for 12 Idaho students to serve on a youth advisory council to the State Department of Education.

Ybarra announced the new initiative this week at her Superintendents Roadshow.

“I want to talk about the reason we’re in this business, which is kids. There’s been a direct challenge and hit to them with this pandemic,” Ybarra told superintendents in Boise on Monday. “It’s kind of like we’re talking all the way around our kids but we’re not really involving them; we haven’t really brought them to the table at the state level.”

The state department is looking for students in “varied grade levels, backgrounds, interests, cultures, school sizes and parts of Idaho.” Applicants must be in grades 2-11 and must attend an Idaho public or charter school.

Students selected for the council will meet quarterly through the 2021-22 school year. Most meetings will be held in Boise, and others remotely.

Students must fill out an application with questions like:

  • Describe a challenge facing students in school today. Do you have ideas to help with this issue?
  • If you could change one physical element and one educational element at your school, what would they be? Why?
  • What experience outside of school has influenced your views and or attitude about education? In what way?

Student applications must also include a signed waiver from a parent or guardian, and students must be accompanied by an adult for in-person meetings. The state will provide a stipend to cover the cost of travel.

Please see the full application here. Applications are due by June 25. If you have questions about the program, please contact Karli Bennett at [email protected] or 208-332-6812.

Inside a Makerspace trailer, photo courtesy of the Idaho STEM Action Center.

Mobile labs bring STEM to undeserved communities

The Idaho Out-of-School Network and University of Idaho 4-H program unveiled five of twelve mobile makerspace trailers this week that will tour parts of rural Idaho this summer to bring STEM education to kids.

The mobile “Think Make Create Labs” carry supplies and tools that will allow kids to learn STEM concepts. Coordinators hope the trailers will reach more than 3,000 students this summer, and at least 8,000 in their first year.

“We really want kids to experience what it means to play and tinker and experiment and fail and try again,” Claire Sponseller of the U of I said in a news release.

The project is the first from a collaboration of business, state and education agencies called the Idaho STEM EcosySTEM, which aims to build exposure, and access, to STEM education for Idaho youth. Four of the trailers will go to North Idaho, two to East Idaho, four to the Treasure Valley and one to the Magic Valley.

Finalists for STEM teaching awards announced

Six Idaho math and science teachers are finalists for the Presidential Award for Excellence in  Mathematics and Science Teaching awards. The annual award recognizes teachers who “have deep content knowledge of the subjects that they teach and the ability to motivate and enable students to be successful in those areas.”

Finalists were chosen by a panel of STEM professionals and educators. Their applications will be now reviewed by the National Science Foundation, which will select one Idaho winner in both the math and science categories.

The math finalists are:

  • Naomi Finnegan, Grangeville High School, Grangeville School District
  • Tanya Johnson, Sugar-Salem High School, Sugar-Salem School District
  • Ashlee Scherer, Highland High School, Pocatello-Chubbuck School District

The science finalists are:

  • Tanya Elmer, Eagle High School, West Ada School District
  • Meg Fleischmann, Century High School, Pocatello-Chubbuck School District
  • Maygan Sampson, Pocatello High School, Pocatello-Chubbuck School District

Winners will receive a signed certificate from President Joe Biden, a paid trip to Washington, D.C. and a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation.

Families eligible for broadband discounts during the pandemic

A program from the Federal Communications Commission is offering discounts of up to $50 per month on internet for qualifying families, and $75 per month for households on tribal lands.

Households are eligible for the Emergency Broadband Benefit if at least one member of the home:

  • Has an income that is at or below 135 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid or the FCC’s Lifeline program;
  • Approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, in the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year;
  • Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
  • Experienced a substantial loss of income through job loss or furlough since February 29, 2020 and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
  • Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider’s existing low-income or COVID-19 program.

Enrollment in the program starts Wednesday, May 12.

Eligible households can enroll through a participating broadband provider or directly with the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) using an online or mail-in application.

For more information, visit www.fcc.gov/broadbandbenefit, or call 833-511-0311 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern time.

Free online math tutoring for Idaho students

Idaho middle and high school students who want to catch up on learning or get ahead can now use a new resource called Schoolhouse.world for free online tutoring in math.

Students can join live Zoom tutoring sessions with small groups, for help with pre-algebra, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, precalculus, calculus, statistics and SAT prep. The platform could also expand to other topics.

According to its website, Schoolhouse.world operates in 86 countries. Students have to be at least 13 years old to participate and all sessions are free. The platform was created by online education mogul Sal Khan when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced students around the world into online education.

Click the video below for more:

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