MUSCATINE, Iowa–Muscatine Community School District received a state STEM BEST Grant to begin a new career exploration program for secondary students, in partnership with Muscatine Community College. The program will give students in junior high and high school first hand experiences with local employers in STEM fields and help them apply what they learn to their future educational and career paths and share it with other students and the community.
Muscatine Community College President, Naomi DeWinter, one of the leaders of the project, explained how it will raise students awareness about promising local careers in STEM fields. In eighth grade, all students will attend a career fair, giving them a first look at local jobs incorporating STEM skills, including advanced manufacturing, architecture, construction, finance, healthcare, information technology, and logistics. Following the career fair, students will communicate with a business from the fair of their choice, expressing their interest in the field and learning more about it. As a component of their social studies class, they will also explore the education they would need for a career in a field of their choice and the economic opportunities it could provide.
Sophomores in high school would continue the exploration process by touring Muscatine Community College. While there, they will receive information about the college’s STEM focused degree and certificate programs, learn about the high school career academies collaboration, and hear from local business representatives about the education needed to get a job in their career field.
Finally, as juniors, students will have a job shadowing experience at a local business, seeing a STEM career in action. Program organizers will match students with businesses based on their interests. Students will then present about their job shadow to elementary school students, helping younger Muskies begin to think about what they would like to do when they grow up. Juniors will also provide material to help create a video about what they learned through their job shadowing, which the Muscatine Community College video department will help produce and air on public access television and YouTube.
This year, at all levels, videos provided by area businesses will also play a role in bringing STEM career awareness to local students. Because onsite visits may not always prove feasible due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DeWinter considers these distanced looks into area industries an important part of the program as it launches.
As Muscatine Community School District and Muscatine Community College begin work on this project, DeWinter believes it will benefit students in a number of ways. “It will help to expose students to local STEM careers and provide them with information, in their words, through the student-led videos,” she elaborated. ”There are so many great STEM careers in companies based in Muscatine – we want students to be inspired at an early age and develop a path toward their future,” she added.
She also looks forward to watching this program continue and grow with the help of many community partners. The STEM BEST grant provides $21,500 with an anticipated match from local supporters. In the future, DeWinter believes the district, college, and local businesses will have the means to fund the program without additional grants.