North Dakota STEM Ecosystem
The North Dakota STEM Ecosystem is the statewide resource to improve STEM access for all North Dakotans, engaging industry, community and education systems to address workforce challenges and STEM literacy. We support initiatives that promote a lifelong learning environment to develop employability and life skills and connect passion with opportunity.
The ND STEM Ecosystem maintains a partnership with the ND Career and Technical Education Dept. The two groups collaborate on the use of STEM Education funds allocated by the ND Legislature. Funding supports regional STEM events, hosted at schools and colleges and serving thousands of K-12 students across our state each year. These STEM events provide opportunities for students to explore STEM with hands-on activities while making career connections with the STEM professionals involved. As an example, Gateway to Science in Bismarck has taken their STEMzone program to nearly 30 schools in the past year under the ND STEM Ecosystem grant program. Testimonial from a rural educator whose school hosted a STEMzone: Our students were engaged and excited about the opportunity to have 120 minutes of hands on science. Being a district that has more than sixty percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch means bringing learning opportunities like the STEMzone to school are essential experiences as most of our students have limited opportunities outside of the school setting.
In order to promote statewide access and equity of STEM experiences, the North Dakota STEM Ecosystem works with partners from five sectors: PreK-12 Education, Higher Education, Informal Education, Public Sector and Industry. We support efforts that advance collaboration between partners and create STEM strands for conferences serving educators and administrators, such as ND Council of Educational Leaders. Our focus is the ecosystem model that places the student in the center and recognizes all the resources that can and should be available to advance all students as problem solvers and lifelong learners through STEM.
We have personally witnessed preschoolers learning chromatography using a coffee filter. This has sparked our 4-year-old to frequently ask to do science projects with food coloring at home. Through the Girls Who Code program, we have seen elementary students coding, testing, and debugging robots to perform automated tasks. The best part is that the students are excited about what they are learning. This is how we harness more innovation and discovery in our society.
Jeff and Sarah Bradford, Parents and Gateway to Science Members
I was lucky enough to visit and participate with the middle school group at the Gateway to Science STEM camp earlier this summer. I was amazed at how excited and engaged these kids were toward the topics of science and engineering. One thing that stood out to me was their need to want to understand. After a topic or subject was presented, almost every student would ask questions pertaining to the subject. They would even add in a comment to how it pertains to their daily life and everyday activities. I was so impressed with this group’s ability to think and analyze at such a young age. The kids were energetic, eager, and engaging, making my short experience at the camp truly memorable. It was hard to pack up and leave!
Jarad Zittleman, Project Engineer, Bartlett & West, Bismarck, North Dakota
Gateway to Science’s approach to science education is really hands-on. It’s open-ended, it’s engaging. Students are actively involved in solving problems, being creative, and trying to figure things out. One of my favorite memories is of a summer camp. They brought their campers to our campus and our students were able to lead an activity that directly related to their research. Gateway to Science connects the learning directly to jobs we have in our community, and that’s invaluable.
Anna Bahnson, K-12 Science Programming & Community Outreach, United Tribes Technical College
One of the really great things about Gateway to Science is in the way they present STEM activities because it really gives students the opportunity to really understand and explore the science behind our industry without having any sort of political agenda. What school has these resources all the time? People get a full experience when they go to Gateway to Science, and it doesn’t matter your age. It’s a great experience for everyone, and that benefits us because it helps people understand the importance of what we do, how we do it, and how it can be done safely. So the experience kids are getting at Gateway to Science isn’t just for kids. It’s also their parents, it’s all the members of their family.
Danette Walsh, Director, Government Relations, ONEOK
It allowed for our students to see something they had not experienced. They were able to be “awed” and inspired to think about careers in science. The ethanol exhibit was especially intriguing to some of our children. The dancing water and ability to visualize blood vessels blew them away!
Anonymous Educator following visit to Gateway to Science