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STEM Brings Communities Together

The Oklahoma State Chamber and Oklahoma Works sponsored STEM workshops in Stillwater to get community input on advancing STEM education for important careers.
STEM Brings Communities Together

STEM Brings Communities Together

For more information visit these links:

Oklahoma Works

Oklahoma State Chamber


Show Details

Show 1643: STEM Brings Communities Together
Air Date: October 23, 2016



Rob McClendon: Hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us here on “Horizon.” I’m Rob McClendon. Well, next month is Gov. Mary Fallin’s third annual STEM Summit, a forum that brings together Oklahoma business leaders, educators and other key stakeholders focused on the critical importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics in our communities. Now, more than ever, we’re seeing a growth in STEM jobs, and with it a growing skills gap. Now, a new statewide push is targeting not only tech centers and business leaders, but also the rest of the community with a goal of getting STEM to grow and thrive. Our Blane Singletary attended a workshop held just down the hall where those seeds were planted.

Blane Singletary: These professionals were all gathered here for a STEM workshop. But outside of that description, they weren’t really sure why they were invited or why they’re seated with these particular people.

Jennifer Monies: We invited various people from communities all across the state to come and talk about STEM and how important it is to Oklahoma.

Blane: Jennifer Monies is with the State Chamber of Oklahoma, who has put on a few of these across the state.

Monies: Specifically, we wanted to get a really big cross section of different kinds of people – business leaders, community leaders, you know, common ed teachers, principals – all in the same room talking to one another.

Blane: Through small projects and guided discussion, this workshop is getting these people thinking and working like the students they serve, or one day could be served by, and that’s an important first step.

Monies: A lot of times, you know, business talks about STEM, educators talk about STEM, but they don’t talk to each other.

Blane: The goal of today is to get STEM growing in Oklahoma. But there isn’t a one-size-fits-the-state solution, which is why they’re being encouraged to continue this conversation in their own individual communities. Levi Patrick is a former math teacher and now works with the State Board of Education.

Levi Patrick: So the STEM workshop is really focused on bringing folks from communities together to think about how to organize themselves to make sure that they are aligning the education experiences for kids with the career needs that they have in their local workforce.

Blane: Patrick says from his vantage point, things are moving in the right direction. New math and science standards are helping equip students with what they need to know. And the teachers in those ordinary math and science classrooms are finding new ways to keep students engaged with those subjects.

Patrick: We have great and enthusiastic teachers who are focusing on making more kind of real life problem-solving centered experiences available to kids in math and science classes, but also in clubs, after school activities and even integrated courses. So it’s actually, I think, looking strong, and in the next few years we’re really gonna see a great benefit from that.

Blane: But school is only a small part of a student’s day. And so in order to stay effective, it becomes necessary to keep students optimistic about math and science early and often.

Patrick: And parents need to know that when they have conversations with kids, if they tell their kids that they were bad at math that it’s pretty much contagious. We need to be really careful about the attitude that we portray about mathematics and about science, because if we don’t act like it’s something that’s worthwhile and worth being good at, our students won’t step up to the plate for that.

Blane: And that’s why getting the whole community involved, not just education or business leaders, is essential. Bringing everyone to the STEM table isn’t just helpful; it’s also in their best interests.

Patrick: It’s not just the K-12 issue to make sure kids are engaged in science, technology, engineering and math, but it’s all of our concern. Also as teachers if we don’t know what those kids are gonna go on to do, if we don’t know the reality of where math is used in the real world or where science is used in the real world, sometimes we’re not as able to make those learning experiences relevant. So if we’re in the same place we can start thinking about creating a multitude of strategies that actually support our students.

Blane: Dr. Stephen McKeever, state secretary of science and technology, is one of many minds driving this initiative forward. But when this workshop is over, the ball is in these participants’ courts.

Stephen McKeever: I think the next step is to start asking themselves, “Who needs to be part of this process? How can we organize? How can we get together, form partnerships, and how can we define the goals that we want to achieve and figure out a way of achieving those goals?” We can only point them in the direction, tell them why we think this is important. After that, it’s up to them.

Blane: In the month and a half lead-up between this workshop and Gov. Mary Fallin’s STEM Summit, Dr. McKeever said he’d like to see at least one or two of these communities represented here today step up as STEM communities. A handful of these already exist across the state, in places like Shawnee, Lawton and Tulsa, which is a great start, but we could always use more. He says our work isn’t done until we have a larger, more qualified STEM workforce.

McKeever: One that industry can look to and know that they will be able to find the people they need in that community. Currently, we’re not there. So the end goal will be when the industry turns to us and says, “In this part of the country, we can find the workforce that we need.”

Blane: It’s up to the communities to take these well-qualified parts and build them into a well-qualified STEM machine. Again, Levi Patrick.

Patrick: We know that having a high-quality education system is important, you know, critical in fact. But if that’s the only thing you have, and you don’t have out of school experiences or extended experiences and parental support and so on, it’s just not gonna do the job. We want them from the summit to have a vision for what they can do in their community afterwards.

Rob McClendon: Now, these workshops are happening thanks to the Coalition for the Advancement of Sciences and Mathematics Education here in Oklahoma. Now, for more information on how your community can become recognized as a STEM community, we have a link to the CASMEO program on our website, as well as a link to the registration for the 2016 STEM Summit scheduled for Nov. 1. Just head to and look for both of these links under this story. Now, when we return, we head to Pryor, Oklahoma, to see how one industrial park is investing in the future of their workers.

Rob: And later in our show, the science in art.