Deb Frazee

Deb Frazee

STEM — short for science, technology, engineering and math — education is not a new concept for Iowa.

Hearing the acronym is a reminder of our state’s goal to connect economic development and education so that students can be prepared to become members of the future Iowa workforce.

Outstanding educational activities, including business partnerships, are taking place in every corner of Iowa and now the focus is in keeping this mindset sustainable for coming generations.

One of the main reasons that the emphasis on STEM education has grown is the efforts of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and the six regional hubs. The Council helps build and support the creation of hands-on opportunities in STEM fields, while leveraging business and community partnerships.

My role as the Southwest Regional STEM Manager involves staying connected to educators in all types of settings, while also being aware of economic development support in our region’s communities through business partnerships with educational programing. In the Southwest STEM Region there is increasing STEM awareness and participation, with a target of sustainability in the programs being developed and implemented. An ever-increasing part of the manager position is to ensure that businesses and educators are equipped with the proper tools to yield positive outcomes from the connections.

One forward-thinking community that comes to mind when I think of STEM sustainability in our region is the IKM-Manning Community School District. They were just recently awarded as a STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) school for their work in developing a new middle school STEM program and repurposing a classroom as a makerspace environment.

This is the second BEST Award for the district and offers additional opportunities to broaden the types of activities which educators can use in their arsenal of educational offerings. The IKM-Manning Foundation Gala brings in investment partners each year in the community, having raised over $200,000 in the last three years. These funds support a wide range of requests from the district to sustain and grow opportunity for educators and students.

When schools in the Southwest STEM region receive funding or grants for STEM enhancements in their programs, the track record has been great. The Scale-Up program awards reflect a strong need and a successful implementation. Awarded programs partake in these Scale-Up programs that range from building robots and coding activities to conducting agricultural filed experiences.

One way that the Southwest region has efficiently used these Scale-Up programs is applying and advocating for early childhood programs in our preschools and kindergarten classrooms.

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Introducing the importance of STEM learning at an early age is yet another way to sustain interest and engagement throughout formal education and make connection to careers and the world of work.

Looking at the future of Southwest STEM, I am eager for the role that pre-apprenticeship programs will take in our high schools and business partners. These opportunities allow students to dive into a specific trade, provide local businesses with eager workers, increase economic development, and encourage our great minds to work and live in Iowa post-education.

Next year will be an exciting one for our region, and I encourage you to stay connected with us and our events by signing up for our newsletter at swcciowa.edu/stem. Remember, I’m always here to serve.

— Deb Frazee is the Southwest Regional STEM Manager of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council and is based at Southwestern Community College in Creston. She can be reached at 712-623-2541 or frazee@swcciowa.edu.

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