By: Lindy Ibeling, Communications Manager for the Iowa Governor's STEM Advisory Council
Every year, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council works with educators, businesses, legislators and advocates across the state to raise awareness of and increase interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. While 2020 was different in many ways, our mission was the same. We had to adapt our methods for reaching communities, schools and families in Iowa. By using STEM skills like innovative thinking, problem solving and creativity, we found new ways to promote all the incredible things STEM is doing for our students, our state and our future.
Early this year, before the COVID-19 pandemic reached Iowa, some important events were already taking place. The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council met in January. More than 100 advocates from across Iowa came together to discuss priorities and learn about ongoing initiatives and projects, like Computer Science is Elementary.
We also announced the six Iowa STEM Teacher Award recipients in early 2020. They were recognized during STEM Day at the Capitol by Governor Reynolds and leaders from Kemin Industries, the award sponsor, for their work to bring outstanding STEM experiences to their students.
In March we had to pivot. The pandemic forced the Council to postpone the annual STEM summit. That didn’t stop our efforts and we found new ways to connect with STEM advocates and enthusiasts.
First, we created the Teachable Moments page. An online destination for families who suddenly found their children at home for an unexpected amount of time, the page offers STEM activities for preschool through high school students. We collected experiments from previous Iowa STEM Teacher Award recipients—and we optimized it to help families find the right lessons and experiments for their children.
Then, we found a way to hear from STEM stakeholders across Iowa. We launched a monthly Twitter chat in April, covering topics from distance learning to high school registered apprenticeships. We welcome you to join us and share your thoughts—we chat during the second week of the month.
In May, we created a new way to share the stories of incredible advocates for STEM education. STEM Essential, a podcast focused on edu-nomic development voices from across the state, now has two full seasons you can listen to anytime.
Throughout the spring and summer months, regional STEM hubs adjusted their typical plans and hosted virtual STEM Festivals for the first time. When we couldn’t come together in person, they made sure to provide fun, educational activities for families to finish at home.
In June, the Council hosted a virtual professional development workshop for educators. The workshop, Fostering Equity in the STEM Classroom, was held over two days and focused on prioritizing equity, diversity and inclusion. Three follow up webinars helped attendees continue the conversation and learn more.
As the summer went on, it was time to plan for a virtual STEM Day at the Fair. Though we usually get to gather for the Fair in August, the STEM Council made the best of the virtual event. We pulled together fun STEM experiments and activities for Fair fans to do at home.
This fall, we celebrated Apprenticeship Week with a webinar and Twitter chat focused on high school registered apprenticeships. The webinar was designed to help make connections and provide access to resources in Iowa.
Now with the year wrapping up, it’s time to look ahead. While we may not know what 2021 will bring, this year has taught us that STEM can help us handle any challenge. We’re looking forward to seeing everything that’s in store.