Delaware STEM Council readies new programs for new school year

The Markell administration continues its push on STEM education with an industry-backed program for middle schoolers and a cash prize for outstanding STEM teachers.

Students in the P.S. duPont Middle School STEM lab, in Wilmington.

(Photo by Mark Fowser/for NewsWorks, file)

STEM education — the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics — is about to receive a major boost in the First State.

Now entering its third full school year in operation, the Delaware STEM Council is in the process of launching two initiatives that will be the council’s “hallmark type programs,” according to program manager Daniel Suchenski.
In March, Gov. Jack Markell and the Delaware STEM Council announced the STEM Educator Awards, a recognition program for teaching excellence in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Then, in April, the STEM Council announced the “JA It’s My Future” program for Delaware middle schoolers. It’s a six-week program slated to begin in the fall that brings STEM professionals into the classroom to introduce students to career paths in STEM-related fields.
The STEM Educator Awards, meanwhile, will award one teacher or group of teachers a $7,500 cash prize made possible by a donation from Ashland Inc., a chemical and technology company with offices in Delaware.
“We were pleasantly surprised to see that we received a higher than anticipated number of applications,” said the STEM Council’s Suchenski of the June 15 deadline. The winners will be announced at a statewide STEM symposium later this summer — a chance for STEM educators to work together and swap ideas.
The JA It’s My Future Program is a two-year pilot program that will offer 3,500 middle school students a six-week classroom introduction to careers in STEM fields, taught by STEM professionals. The program is made possible by a partnership with Junior Achievement of Delaware and a donation by the DOW Chemical Company. “The program is designed to bring in career professionals to educate students and relate what they are learning to the classroom to future employment,” said Suchenski.
Now in its third year, the Delaware STEM Council says, moving forward, these programs will be the primary focus.
“A lot of the work we did initially revolved around creating collaborations and having stakeholders think creatively about the STEM space,” explained Suchenski. “A lot of the conversations we started did not exist beforehand. Now we are all moving in the same direction with these initiatives.”
In a very pro-business state like Delaware, there’s a strong desire to create synergies between education and business. The STEM Council was established in 2011 as part of Markell’s “Race to the Top” education reform effort.
According to the governor, there are are nearly four STEM jobs available for every unemployed Delawarean. Markell has identified STEM education as a priority.
“Technological innovation accounted for half of U.S. economic growth over the past few years,” said Suchenski. “We have a lot of the tools ready to make this collaboration fruitful.”


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