Bonita Springs – Is kindergarten too early to start students thinking about their future careers? It’s never too early, say Lee County Public Schools and they have the support of many others including the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools, local businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and area colleges and universities.
That and the demand to fill U.S. STEM careers explain the current student focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). The goal is to prepare today’s students to compete globally for the jobs of the future.
This academic year, solar-powered boat races and other exciting projects and internships will fill the school calendar to make lessons come alive and help students see the relevance of their academic courses.
Algenol, a Bonita Springs business developing biofuels, is one of the local businesses partnering with STEM and the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools.
Their involvement has included support for: FGCU STEM scholarships, the Algenol STEM Challenge where students from area schools compete with Algenol scientists and engineers in projects such as the solar-powered boat races, student and teacher internships at Algenol, the reading initiative to improve reading skills using Kindle Fires in elementary schools and inservice training for teachers.
“Many of the STEM activities were implemented in selected schools as the programs began. Now, we have exciting plans to expand to more schools for the 2012-2013 school year,” said Marshall Bower, President and CEO of the Foundation for Lee County Public Schools.
Bower recently unveiled the three main directions for STEM activities supported by the Foundation. They include Stemtastic, Stem@ Work and Teacher Immersion. Stemtastic will continue this year. An all district job and education fair to be held this Spring at Lee County Public Education Center in Fort Myers, Stemtastic will include presentations and interactive experiences for students K-12 presented by every local education entity and business enterprise that supports the STEM initiative. The last event had over 2,000 participants. Drawings, raffles and giveaways at the event are supported by business and education sponsors, all with the intent to start students thinking about the excitement of STEM careers.
Stem@Work is in its third year; all high schools will be engaged for the first time. Twenty students at each high school will be exposed to STEM career workplaces for a minimum of twenty hours each. Shaw Development and Algenol are two involved companies from the Bonita Springs area.
“Teacher Immersion is the third exciting program,” explained Bower.
“Twentyfive teachers and administrators will experience internships at STEM businesses while substitutes are in the classroom.”
A successful end result would be to help teachers create dynamic science courses for their students.
As students head back to the classroom this fall, it will be more than reading, writing and ‘rithmetic. The emphasis on STEM will continue and grow.