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. 

 


Vest To Speak At Lee’s Winter Commencement

Dr. R. Lamar Vest will return to a familiar setting to deliver the address at Lee University’s winter commencement ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 17. Not only is Dr. Vest an alumnus of Lee, he also served as the school’s president for two years, 1984-86.  Dr. Vest's leadership and influence globally as a minister has included a leading role in the World Pentecostal Fellowship ... (click for more)

Crash Survivor Austin Hatch To Speak At McCallie’s Dr Pepper TEN Classic Luncheon

Austin Hatch will bring his story of survival and perseverance to the McCallie School on the afternoon of Feb. 3, 2017, as the featured speaker at the Mountain View Auto Group Luncheon for the second annual McCallie Dr Pepper TEN Classic basketball showcase.  Mr. Hatch survived two plane crashes before graduating from high school — one in 2003 that killed his mother and ... (click for more)

County Schools Prepare To Set Priorities For Next Round Of School Building Funding

County school board members are gearing up to set priorities for the next round of new school construction in Hamilton County. Lee McDade, assistant superintendent, said officials may know by the spring how much money will be available to build new schools or add on to existing ones - or do a combination of both. Board member Rhonda Thurman said a proposal to build a new Chattanooga ... (click for more)

Walker County Will No Longer Have Full-Time County Attorney Under Whitfield Tenure; Will Add Full-Time Communications Director

Incoming Walker County Sole Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said under his administration there will no longer be a full-time county attorney. "We will outsource this service on a fee basis," he said. Mr. Whitfield said he has begun interviewing attorneys who might be able to help out the county from time to time. Don Oliver has long been the county attorney for Walker County ... (click for more)

Vehicle Emissions Testing Causes More Pollution Than It Prevents - And Response

While a noble cause to make sure vehicles are operating efficiently with the minimum amount of pollutants, a simple analysis makes it somewhat evident the VET program in Chattanooga causes more pollution that it prevents.  Though I don't know how many vehicles are tested on an annual basis, if you assume an average round trip of 10 miles to the nearest testing station (five ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Cost Of No Discipline

At the start of the current school year, state education officials gathered at some “state testing task force” when disciplinary records from across Tennessee happened to be revealed. You probably are unaware of this, as it seems to have been kept on the “down low,” but statewide a full 20 percent of the black males in our public schools were suspended at least once during the 2014-2015 ... (click for more)