Mid America STEM Alliance is Launching a Library-Based Initiative for STEM Family Engagement
The MidAmerica STEM Alliance in Oklahoma is the envy of many other STEM Ecosystems in one major regard: It has business and other key partners locked in – literally.
Google for example announced in February 2019 a plan to invest more than $13 billion into data centers and offices across the United States, which includes the Mayes County site.
But there are other key organizations that have partnered with MidAmerica to enable the Ecosystem to build STEM labs at 19 schools serving multiple grade levels. Partners have also helped establish an unmanned aerial vehicle program for students and numerous other initiatives that are helping ensure that students are equipped with STEM skills and mindsets that will help fuel the region’s already strong economy.
The MidAmerica STEM Alliance was born from the MidAmerica Industrial Park, home to some key businesses who have joined with the ecosystem initiative.
Scott Fry, leader of the MidAmerica STEM Alliance, has identified a significant partner which has been missing from some of its work: Families.
The Ecosystem is now beginning to partner with local libraries to develop STEM programming that will engage students and their families.
“Up until now, I think a lot of our family engagement just kind of happened through programs that our partners have been running,” he explains. “But we want to be far more intentional about it.”
Fry said the Ecosystem and the libraries will likely be partnering with Pitsco Education, a supplier of STEM-related programming and products, to help develop STEM initiatives.
“STEM Ecosystems are doing incredible work across the country to prepare students for their future careers,” said Pitsco’s Vice President of Education, Matt Frankenbery. “Our student-focused approach and the goals of the STEM Ecosystems go hand-in-hand. We are honored to partner with Ecosystems such as MidAmerica STEM Alliance and engage students and their families in hands-on STEM experiences.”
Pitsco Education has almost 50 years of experience preparing K-12 students for their future by delivering relevancy through STEM activities and materials. Taking an in-depth approach, Pitsco Education works collaboratively with school districts and business and industry within a STEM Ecosystem to provide programs and activities that develop employability skills in students that align with community needs. The ultimate goal is for students and families to have full awareness of career opportunities in their community.
Fry said families have to be engaged and supportive of STEM in order for students to make meaningful connections.
“With stronger engagement, we can help families better understand STEM career pathways and also help them identify where their particular children’s strengths and weaknesses might be. We can support families in the process of guiding them forward,” he says.
Libraries and other connections
Libraries were selected because Fry says they are places where families typically go together. “We hope to enhance all the great resources that the libraries already offer,” he says.
In addition to the planned library project, Fry says he is also interested in strengthening the connections between families and companies operating in the region so that there is a deeper awareness of what work looks like and what possibilities for work exist.
“There are a lot of STEM careers that the general public typically aren’t aware of. And so going back, it could be extremely beneficial in helping educate the influencers about careers that are not on their radar. If a child comes home and says he or she is interested in instrumentation engineering, that’s not going to make a connection with many people. Exposure to the unknown helps build the future workforce,” he explains.
- Family engagement initiatives have to be in a place that is familiar to families (e.g. libraries).
- Families need information about various industries and available STEM careers in order to effectively influence their children.
The MidAmerica STEM Alliance is a collaborative initiative designed to ensure that area youth have opportunities and resources available to them to discover and develop STEM related skill sets that are aligned with educational and career pathways. The Alliance is comprised of seventeen public school districts, area employers, business professionals, post-secondary education institutions, state and tribal agencies and is coordinated by MidAmerica Industrial Park’s workforce development program, MidAmerica Delivers.