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BiPartisan Efforts to Strengthen STEM Ecosystems: It’s Happening. ‘Imagine That!’

by | Mar 6, 2022 | RE@L StudentCorner | 0 comments

At a time when political gridlock is somehow reflected in many newscasts and social media posts, Republican and Democrat senators are finally finding agreement on future funding for more Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) ‘ecosystems’. Imagine that!

With bipartisanship in short supply in recent times, it is heartening to see legislators find agreement on anything these days! Still, at RE@L, we never give up! We, too, are encouraged by the cooperative nature of pending legislation designed to strengthen the connections between STEM coursework and STEM careers. We believe more is needed of both.


As reported in February by the Stem Education Coalition, Senator Jerry Moran (R) from Kansas and Senator Mark Kelly (D) from Arizona have co-sponsored a bill, titled the Strengthening STEM Ecosystems Act to “establish a grant program within the National Science Foundation to provide funding to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) ecosystems and their partners to better connect communities, share knowledge, and create pathways for students to enter STEM careers.”

Followers of RE@L may recognize these same important guideposts as fundamental tenets of its philosophy. In our RE@LBlog guest post, “STEM Really Comes to Life”, in September 2021, RE@L’s Executive Vice-President of Marketing, Jeff Blough, outlined the three key principles that drive the development of RE@L’s STEM-based investigations: RE@L Learning, RE@L Community, and RE@L World. Yes, that’s a lot of STEM research and RE@L exploration.

RE@L Learning

All of RE@L’s STEM investigations are student-centered. Placing the student as the focus of the lesson or story allows the student to make key decisions that impact the end result. What a great way to learn from one’s, and sometimes even more from mistakes. This is what RE@L calls its ‘secret sauce’ catalyst with our RE@L STEM Investigations. And it works!

For those who remember The Oregon Trail™, that was the catalyst that made that the curriculum so effective. We are fortunate at RE@L to have Don Rawitsch, the creator of The Oregon Trail™, heading our new product development and building investigation experiences based on that product philosophy: students need to be in charge of their own learning.

In our new release, 1Up On Vaping™, for instance, students are placed in real-life situations regarding the temptations and dangers of vaping. In the end, it’s the students themselves figuring out on their own that vaping is dangerous. And they also learn from sharing with their friends – in their peer groups. 

RE@L Community

This is the application of classroom/virtual learning material and experiencing how it fits into the “Real World”.  Some STEM curriculum has ‘field work’ built in that is typically called Experiential Learning.  But an important component that we incorporate is to extend classroom work to allow for student-to-student sharing and group discussion. By sharing experiences…the exchange of data and results, students learn. And they learn from each other, just like the real world!

Students sharing their self-reflections on process and outcomes is critical. Leading questions like, ‘What problems did you encounter?’ ‘What decisions did you make?’ ‘What worked for you?’ ‘What didn’t work?’ ‘Have you shared your findings and conclusions with other students or adults who do research?’ RE@L’s extension to field study and community is a dynamic way for kids to learn from each other

RE@L World

Knowing that the ultimate objective of STEM is to help develop our future workforce, RE@L STEM Investigations’ RE@L World principle focuses on exposing students to careers associated with the core curriculum. It allows students to explore potential careers that they have encountered in the RE@L STEM Investigation. In 1Up On Vaping™, for instance, students are exposed to various careers including biology and chemistry teachers, researchers, scientists and marketing. Now THAT’s real world!

In the comprehensive 1Up On Vaping™ teaching guide, teachers are encouraged to link this to career days or have guest speakers come to the classroom (real or virtual) and have the guest interact with the students.

By sharing their experiences and path to their career, it gives students an insight on possibly pursuing a particular career.  The goal of this principle is both exposure to careers but also to create excitement of the endless possibilities students have in making career choices. 

 

Yes, even political bipartisanship support on just about anything appears to be in short supply recently, and so it is heartening to see our legislators find agreement on truly important issues of the day. And this issue is a critically important one. With an aging working class and fewer people to fill positions, it is more important now than it has ever been to make this commitment to our employees-of-the-future. We need politicians of all parties willing to support STEM. At a time where common ground is sometimes hard to find, advancing STEM education and STEM careers is something easy on which we likely agree. STEM transcends party lines.

At RE@L, we stand in support of federal legislation which funds even stronger ties between STEM education and careers. “We support this legislation,” said Paul Gullickson, Co-Founder, President, and CEO of realexperiencesatlife.com. “Anytime we can draw straighter lines between STEM and STEM careers, we are doing right by our students.”

As you can see, RE@L’s STEM team does right by focusing on STEM learning products that work. Students know! RE@L asks them.

Some graphics on this blog are courtesy of pixy.org

Randy Nelson

Author

Randy Nelson is a retired educator of 38 years. He served students as a high school speech, theater, and English teacher. He served colleagues as a director of curriculum and instruction; and, most recently he served the La Crosse, WI school district as its superintendent of schools. He has a strong leadership track record promoting choice and innovation via unique community partnerships. He currently serves RE@L, inc as its Director of Education.