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Summit STEM partners with CSU center

Janice Kurbjun
Summit Daily News

Colorado State University STEM Center director Tom Siller came to Summit County Monday to meet with the leaders and decision-makers in Summit County education.

STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The goal of Summit STEM is to enhance these educational opportunities for Summit County’s students, teachers and families. So far, work has consisted of engaging teachers to identify how the group can help bring STEM learning to the classroom – be in through volunteers, financial resources, material resources and beyond.

With both organizations in relative infancy, Monday’s meeting mainly consisted of identifying shared goals as well as explaining what Summit STEM has accomplished thus far. From there, they discussed potential projects, listed questions to pursue, brainstormed funding opportunities and explored potential areas for collaboration.

“Our goal is to work together and do something for the kids,” Siller said. “It’s a partnership for us to do new things. We’re excited.”

Summit STEM coordinator Kathryn Grohusky called Monday’s meeting a success, with some 20 people in attendance. They ranged from Summit School District administrators to teachers and parents to vested community groups wanting to lend a hand. That’s growth from the original six interested parents, Grohusky said.

Siller sees strong opportunity for his center to grow in partnership with Summit County, with both entities bringing something to the table. In particular, he said he wants to mimic the Colorado State University Extension Service model in bringing university learning to each county. And he said Summit County is a good spot to start, with all its vested and motivated public.

“This is a long-term relationship we’re starting,” Siller said.

Summit Education Foundation founder Chris Renner called the Summit County community a “proactive” one.

“(STEM) is a parent-generated initiative partnering with Summit Education Foundation – a community organization – bringing in CSU at the state level and bringing all the resources to (Summit School) District in a conversation about how to integrate this into our kids’ lives,” Renner said.

However, a formal partnership with Summit School District has yet to form.

Siller’s colleague, post-doctoral fellow Heidi Iverson, intends to take information that came out of Monday’s meeting and find ways to answer questions, support projects and support STEM in Summit County from the state perspective. For example, she’s done analysis on how teachers can align the inquiry-based Full Option Science System science curriculum with the new state standards. Such research could help teachers effectively bring part of STEM to their students.

She also plans to work with Summit School District grant writer Heidi Burki on grant opportunities.

Much of what happens in the near future for Summit STEM may not come out of funding – those opportunities must be found and applied for – but instead out of community resources like people, talents, volunteers, equipment and content or curriculum, Siller said.

“It isn’t always about the money,” he said. “We have the resources around, but they are often wasted if not coordinated.”

Renner added, “It’s about networking interested STEM volunteers in the community and facilitate bringing that knowledge into the classroom.”


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