STEM in action




STEM is being used in Fort Dodge classrooms to teach students about science and technology.

Iowa Sen. Daryl Beall, D-Fort Dodge, and Iowa Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge, visited St. Edmond Catholic School Monday with representatives from Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency and Iowa State University to see firsthand how Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics grant funds are being used.

“We are taking a tour of some STEM activities going on in the city,” Jeff Herzberg, Prairie Lakes AEA chief administrator, said. “Sen. Beall and Rep. Miller and I were in a conversation recently about some good things going on in the schools. Lynn Campbell, our STEM hub manger from Iowa State University for this area, made some connections and we’re going to talk to some teachers about what they’re doing with STEM.”

Iowa students have benefited from STEM, Herzberg said, with programs including First Lego League, First Tech Challenge and Project Lead the Way. For Kid Wind, elementary school students design wind turbines.

According to Herzberg, interest in STEM has increased.

“It’s allowed a lot of teachers and students to have an opportunity to see what it is,” he said. “The goals of the governor’s STEM council, which I’m a member of, was to increase interest and understanding of and participation in STEM across the state and it’s done just that.”

John Howard, St. Edmond High School principal, said he was pleased by the visit.

“It’s great to have AEA representatives, Iowa State representatives, state legislators come in our building to see how we utilize a STEM grant, to see our students are doing things with the STEM initiative and what our teachers are doing with the STEM initiative,” he said.

Howard has seen firsthand how STEM has engaged his students.

“STEM is a tremendous statewide initiative,” he said. “We think we’re doing a lot of good things with STEM in our building.”

Carla Coates, St. Edmond teacher, hosted the visitors in her class while students were studying science.

“We are coming up with thick and thin questions that the students can research and test, and it’s all about the environment,” she said. “They came up with the questions themselves.”

The project is part of a science writing heuristic grant, Coates said, which ended last year, but incorporates STEM activities.

Students respond well to the science instruction.

“They love it,” Coates said. “They’re using Google Docs so they can collaborate together. What one student does, all the others can see it.”

Beall said he enjoyed touring Fort Dodge’s schools Monday.

“I’m a student today,” he said. “I’m seeing what some of the innovative teachers are doing and it’s fascinating. In the legislative process, we deal with numbers and percents and dollars, but what it’s all about is the students. This puts a face on it.”

According to Beall, STEM has value.

“In the eighth-grade classroom, the group I was in with were looking at global warming and what is the actual impacts, what does each degree of temperature increase do to the ocean level,” he said. “It’s not just an academic pursuit, these are real-life practical applications of what they’re learning.”