Customized professional development, sharing of best practices and networking defined the 2023 BEST STEMposium. Approximately 75 of Iowa’s leading educational innovators gathered in Okoboji for two days to collaborate, learn from the experiences of others and plot the disruption of school-as-usual. The powerful convening of STEM BESTs presented a chance to exchange resources to heighten authentic, work-based learning experiences in their school districts.
Students from the Okoboji Middle School No Boundaries STEM BEST Program shared inspiring stories about their program and what they learned from the experience. Representatives from 11 STEM BEST Program models shared their approach and future plans during the BEST STEMposium gallery walk.
STEM BEST Program community partners John McMahon, manager of The Ship Store at Mau Marine, Jon Pausley, CEO of Arnolds Park and Katy Burke, Director of Public Health for Dickinson County, joined the BEST STEMposium to provide employer perspectives on partnerships with schools.
Educators also visited STEM BEST Program partner Iowa Lakeside Laboratory, a 147-acre campus on West Okoboji Lake where K-12 and post-secondary students conduct research on one of Iowa’s largest fresh water lakes. Day two was held at Okoboji Middle School where participants were able to tour the school’s maker spaces and STEM classrooms, connect with statewide and local resources, and learn about competency-based grading systems.
Participants unanimously agreed that they would attend a future BEST STEMposium. One participant said, “I love the less formal format of the conference and the heavy emphasis on networking and learning from our peers. I’ve been to conferences all over and genuinely loved the format of this conference.”
To learn more about authentic, work-based learning experiences available through the STEM BEST Program, visit www.iowastem.org/stembest.