The National Science Foundation (NSF)-sponsored Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) are a group of interdisciplinary centers located at universities all across the United States, each in close partnership with industry. ERC innovations in research and education are expected to impact curricula at all levels, from pre-college to lifelong learning, and to be disseminated to and beyond their academic and industry partners. A vital part of ERC education programs are outreach efforts to bring engineering concepts to pre-college classrooms, with the aim of attracting students to engineering and STEM careers. Because ERCs play a critical role by integrating research, education, diversity, outreach, and industrial collaboration, the NSF views ERCs as change agents for academic engineering programs and the engineering community at large.
The Center for Biorenewable Chemicals’ (CBiRC) pre-college education strategic plan is to form long-standing partnerships with central Iowa school districts and school districts located in relative proximity to CBiRC partner institutions. The pre-college program focuses primarily on grades K–12, with a mission to effectively impart in the next generation of students the relevance of the engineering profession, the skills required to succeed in this profession, and its value in our technological society.
CBiRC has partnered with the Des Moines School District, the largest and most diverse school district in Iowa (over 30,000 students, 63 schools, 49% underrepresented minority enrollment and over 60% students receiving free or reduced lunch). The partnership with the Des Moines school district was established in 2008 and included the district science curriculum coordinator, district school improvement leaders, district lead teachers, CBiRC pre-college staff, and staff from the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF). A needs assessment was conducted to determine obtainable objectives and goals.
Based on the needs assessment, a long-range vision was created to support the following:
- Science teachers to think and perform as 21st century scientists in their classrooms
- Professional learning communities for science teachers across disciplines, grades and schools
- Long-term partnerships between CBiRC and school districts to ensure best practices are maintained
Over the past five years, CBiRC has established effective STEM professional development opportunities for K–12 teachers, provided classrooms with resident scientists and engineers, created opportunities for middle and high school students to pursue scientific research, and participated in the creation of a highly successful STEM professional learning community across middle and high school grades.
For More Information
Visit http://www.erc-assoc.org/programs/about or http://www.cbirc.iastate.edu/education/precollege/