STEM making strides in rural classrooms

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HAMPTON, IA – According to a study by Iowa state officials, the gap in exposure to the STEM program is hurting rural schools.

In an effort to bring technology into classrooms all across the country, the STEM program is making it a possibility.

“They’re using technology, they’re using the tools that the district has invested in and it gives them something different then the regular pen and notebook, open the book to page whatever type classroom,” said Mark Drier, Instructor with Hampton-Dumont Middle and High School.

At schools such as Hampton-Dumont Middle and High School the emphasis is introducing the programs to all students at an early age, but recent concerns over the exposure of the program to rural communities has Iowa officials like Governor Terry Branstad hoping to make changes.

According to a report, 62 percent of urban parents think their child is “very well prepared” in STEM subjects, compared with 37 percent of rural parents. Although some instructors say the concern may be jumping the gun.

“We’re not just all urban. I know the number of rural schools is not as great as it used to be but a lot of really strong students who are now engineers came from our rural areas. You just got to focus on the STEM now,” said Steve Huling, Physics Instructor, Hampton-Dumont High School.

In Minnesota, teachers are also focusing on introducing students into the program, but with a twist.

“In Austin we decided to go a step further than that and we’re a STEAM school, is what we’re running. So we’ve added the arts in that because it’s a very important part,” said Jean Mcdermott, Principal for IJ Holton School in Austin.

For Jean and many of the other instructors, they say it’s all about making the program available for all students.

“In many communities when you go in a STEM program or a STEAM program, it’s an elective program where you have to apply to get into that program. What we’ve chosen to do at our school, since it’s all fifth and sixth graders is that all children will have access to this program,” said McDermott.

Another thing all the instructors agreed on was the importance of engaging young girls and minorities in these programs as well.

They say these groups play an important role in bringing diversity to these fields.

As part of an education reform package announced by Governor Branstad, he’s hoping to attract more instructors with stem backgrounds into Iowa classrooms by paying higher wages.

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