gina barrierThis is the season of Friday night football games, cheering crowds and school spirit! The stands are filled with parents, students, and alumni all cheering for the home team, all supporting one cause – winning the game. This competitive spirit serves us well at athletic events. Wouldn’t it be great if we could rally that kind of support around academics? Imagine the impact when not just a school or school system, but multiple school systems, multiple counties, and multiple governments work together to improve the economy of an entire region of the state, provide an ample workforce for current businesses and manufacturing, and attract new business opportunities into the area. When schools work together to improve opportunities for all students in their region, crossing county lines and incorporating multiple LEAs, economic regions grow improving the quality of life for the entire community.

Schools and school systems are taking action to achieve this vision. Educational institutions are developing partnerships with local businesses, industries, manufacturing, and governments to learn more about the economics of their region. To prepare students for life after high school and to make their curriculum relevant, teachers want to know what types of STEM jobs are available in the area, what skills businesses are seeking and how much education is needed for various STEM careers. STEM tours of local business and industry are being conducted for teachers and students. Students see how science content is applied in real-world situations making science more relevant. Students are able to identify local STEM careers and outline an educational path to reach their career goals.

In addition to touring local industries, teachers and students are also visiting community college programs that help provide those industries with skilled workers. They see first-hand what people do in their jobs, talk to them about which jobs require a certificate and which require an associates or a bachelors degree.

Schools are also partnering with universities to bring programs popular in large metropolitan areas to rural communities. These universities bring equipment, technology, teacher professional development, summer camps, connections with researchers and other resources to local teachers. Museums and informal science programs from the business and government sectors also help educate the community at large.

Schools are partnering with local government such as the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Commission, town and county managers, and many others to connect with local business and industry and to learn more about the economic development efforts in the area. If teachers know what industries are present and what industries are desired, they are better able to connect their curriculum to those STEM careers. Local governments also hire STEM professionals and these careers can be highlighted as well.

Imagine a classroom where science content is taught in a problem-based scenario focused on local STEM careers; a classroom where technology is used every day as a tool to collect data and to research and communicate findings; a classroom where lessons are integrated with all subjects and students learn the soft skills that employers are demanding. Our job as educators is to prepare and support our students for a winning career. In order to do that, shouldn’t we consider their options after high school?

Join us in November to see how schools are partnering with higher education, local government, and industry to build a better future for our students. We will begin with a panel discussion followed by three break-out sessions. Our theme is “Science for All: Equipping and Empowering Professionals through Advocacy and Partnership". The Keynote speaker will be Dr. Julia Clark, Program Officer for NSF, native of North Carolina who will deliver her message entitled, “Closing the Achievement Gap from an International Perspective: Transforming STEM for Effective Education”.

 

Gina Barrier
NCSLA President