Public Schools And Community Programs Connect To Support Student Learning

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Informal educators take on the role of students during a hands-on STEM activity.
Informal educators take on the role of students during a hands-on STEM activity.

Over 40 professionals from community nonprofits gathered for a free training sponsored by the Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub. This session was delivered in partnership with Hamilton County Department of Education and held at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s Chattanooga campus. The one-day session was the first in a series of training events focused on giving professionals from afterschool programs, summer camps and community activities additional skills and resources for supporting students’ academic achievement.

These trainings are the result of a community-wide commitment to support education and workforce development. Over the past two years, a diverse set of stakeholder groups have been working together to expand student learning and workforce skills in science, technology, engineering and math. An increasing demand for STEM skills among employers has led to a focus on STEM learning throughout the nation. Here in Southeast Tennessee the initiative has rekindled past alliances and cultivated new partnerships among schools, businesses, nonprofits and colleges in an effort to create student enrichment activities and teacher training programs focused on STEM.

“Studies show that some of the most influential factors leading to students pursuing STEM careers actually happen in informal learning experiences, such as camps and afterschool activities,” said Keri Randolph, director of Learning for the STEM Innovation Hub. “This series of trainings has been designed to help informal educators align their programs with classroom instruction and give students more of the hands-on learning experiences found in quality STEM instruction.”

The Southeast Tennessee STEM Innovation Hub works to facilitate partnerships such as this one between local school systems and community organizations. “Our organization was established last spring by the Tennessee STEM Innovation Network to help unify the region’s collective response to the demand for STEM skills,” said Tracey Carisch, managing director for the STEM Innovation Hub.  “As we identify an opportunity to expand STEM learning for K-12 students, we reach out into the community to create the partnerships and programs that can fill that need and move the region forward in this STEM initiative.”

Wednesday’s training event served as an example a STEM need being filled by strong community partnerships, with the STEM Innovation Hub and HCDE working together to design a session for nonprofit organizations held at BlueCross BlueShield. During the training, the participants first learned about STEM and the new Common Core State Standards to give them a clear understanding of the work students are doing in classrooms.  With this knowledge, they spent the rest of the day discussing how they can better align their programs to support the schools’ teaching strategies and to help children develop important STEM-ready skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration and perseverance in solving problems. 

Jayne Griffin from the Creative Discovery Museum walked away from the session with several action items for enhancing her programs connections to classroom learning. “In addition to a number of specific steps for moving forward with improved classroom alignment, I also gained a great deal of optimism for future collaboration among informal educators and school teachers,” she said. “The STEM Innovation Hub is serving as an important link between our organizations and public education.”

The school districts also see the benefits of this cooperative effort around STEM as well. Rick Smith, superintendent of Hamilton County Department of Education, commented on the value community partners bring to student learning. “These informal educators are a tremendous resource in extending learning outside of the classroom and through the summer months.”

Participants of the session at BlueCross BlueShield will be invited to continue the training process throughout the spring. Monthly lunch sessions will be held at the STEM Innovation Hub, located within PEF. These trainings will be free and open to all informal educators in the region. 

Visit www.setennesseestem.org or email STEM@pefchattanooga.org for more information. 

 


TEDxUTChattanooga Announces Slate Of Speakers For Oct. 25

The organizers of the first TEDxUTChattanooga have announced the slate of speakers for this year’s event. TEDxUTChattanooga will be held Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Dorothy Hackett Ward Theatre at UTC. Earlier this year, TEDxUTChattanooga invited nominations for speakers to offer short talks by a select, diverse group of professors, students, and community members, all of whom ... (click for more)

Public Education Foundation Hosts Free College Knowledge Lunch Break Wednesday

High school parents & educators from all over the Tennessee Valley are invited to attend the Public Education Foundation's FREE College Knowledge Lunch Breaks.  Other adults who work with or advise students on the road to post-secondary success are invited as well.   These monthly lunch time workshops will focus on college related topics such as essay writing, ... (click for more)

Erlanger Finishes Fiscal Year With $18 Million Profit

After a major loss the year before, Erlanger Health System finished the fiscal year with an $18 million profit, officials announced Monday night. It was well ahead of the $2 million gain that Erlanger had budgeted for, and far better than last year's $8 million loss. The profit was boosted by a first-time $19,587,000 from a Public Hospital Supplemental payment and essential ... (click for more)

Chancellor Rules That IDB Must Reimburse Attorney Fees, Other Legal Costs For Helen Burns Sharp On TIF Lawsuit

Chancellor Pam Fleenor has ruled that Helen Burns Sharp, who sued over the validity of a $9 million Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for a planned major development on Aetna Mountain, should be reimbursed her discretionary costs as well as her attorney fees. Ms. Sharp said in a recent court filing that her legal bills to attorney John Konvalinka were $74,427 at the time. The ... (click for more)

ChattaData Is A Real Advance For The City

This past Tuesday, the city of Chattanooga's new performance management tool called ChattaData was unveiled. As the chairman of the City Council’s Budget & Finance Committee, I am excited to witness the city putting this important information online in a way that is accessible and transparent to all taxpayers. This approach shines light on how we as a city prioritize our ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: It’s ‘Hate The SEC’ Day

The boo birds came out on the fly on the ESPN website Sunday afternoon, this moments after the latest AP College Football “Top 25” included eight teams from the Southeastern Conference.   What set naysayers aglow was Mississippi State, after upsetting LSU 34-29 Saturday night, debuted on the list at No. 14 while Clemson, playing Florida State in an overtime thriller, got tossed ... (click for more)