GCU event is like speed dating for STEM programs
By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau
In rapid succession, speakers from groups ranging from the Phoenix Zoo to the Southwest Maker Fair pitched their programs to an audience of educators Tuesday at Grand Canyon University Arena.
The 1 1/2-minute spiels highlighted how each could help K-12 students, teachers and administrators from across Arizona in the area of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
It was the GCU Strategic Educational Alliances’ (SEA) version of speed dating, with the goal of matching organizations that have STEM resources with educators who need them.
“Schools are recognizing that they need to change the way they teach to meet the changing demands of the workforce,” said Amanda Hughens, GCU’s K-12 STEM outreach manager.
The workforce is demanding highly trained job candidates in such areas as computer science, information technology and medicine and electrical, biomedical and mechanical engineering.
To help meet the demand, GCU recently has constructed two cutting-edge buildings with a combined 300,000 square feet to accommodate the University’s rapidly expanding list of STEM programs.
In his remarks, GCU President Brian Mueller stressed the importance of stepping up K-12 STEM education to better prepare students for the rigorous upper-level courses of study.
“That has to start in kindergarten,” Mueller said. “We have to make a commitment to study in those areas … and we can’t do that unless we work with you early.”
The “STEM Innovation: Reinforcing the Pipeline from Pre-K through Business” breakfast attracted more than 200 participants, double the number from last year, said Kathryn Scott, executive director for the Today’s Learn program at GCU.
The organizations offered a variety of resources, including expert speakers, field trips, professional development, curriculum, mentorship, sponsorship, classes and training.
They ran the gamut, from the Arizona Science Teachers Association and Arizona Science Center to STEMteachersPHX, LeadLocal and The STEMAZing Project.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department uses biology, physics and other sciences to protect animals and their habitat, and it offers courses that use wildlife as a context for teaching inquiry, literacy and social studies.
“STEM is important in what we do,” said Eric Proctor, the department’s wildlife education coordinator. “Situations like how to get an elk out of the road are problems that incorporate all aspects of STEM.”
Classes include the roles of GPS and geographic information systems in wildlife biology and the use of solar and wind energy in wildlife sustainability.
The Arizona Humane Society offers education in veterinary medicine, hands-on learning and field trips that include live animal interactions. Programs are free to Title I schools in Maricopa County.
Arizona’s after-school MESA (math, engineering, science achievement) program also is free for Title I middle and high schools and serves 69 schools and 11,000 students, said Bill Pike, MESA coordinator.
USA Great Skate and Skateland Mesa/Chandler and Great Skate Glendale offer field trips in the physics of roller skating, acoustics, sound system design, Pythagorean Theorem, center of mass, projectile motion and more.
The breakfast, in its second year, had a streamlined structure that limited speeches to 1 1/2 minutes.
Sue Paschal, principal of the Sequoia Pathfinder Academy in the East Valley, said the event helped her to identify resources for enhancing the charter school’s program by giving it a STEM emphasis.
The new format suited Delsey Olds, Agua Fria High School District science content specialist. Agua Fria is opening a fifth high school in the West Valley that will be STEM-based, Olds said.
“I get to hear everyone’s little spiel and then go and connect with them,” Olds said. “I love it.”
The Strategic Education Alliance is hosting a series of STEM community events, including:
- MESA Regional Competition, 8 a.m.-3 p.m, Feb. 18, Building 57
- 3D Printing Showcase, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., March 4, Antelope Gym
- Google Summit, March 23-24, various classrooms
- FIRST Robotics, April 6-8, GCU Arena
Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.