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Upstate Stem Forum

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On November 12, 2012, CA2VES hosted a STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — forum for educators at the CU-ICAR center in Greenville, SC. Partners for the event were the Clemson Center for Workforce Development, Clemson Economic Development, the Youth Learning Institute, and the South Carolina Coalition for Mathematics and Science. Invitees to the day-long seminar included K-12 educators, representatives from technical colleges, industry and legislative representatives.

In addition to an industry panel discussion, two breakout sessions were held with small groups identifying challenges and opportunities for improvement in the current STEM curriculum in South Carolina schools. At the end of each session, attendees were asked to complete a survey ranking the activities, programs, or resources they would most like to see CA2VES support. Analyzing the discussions and surveys from each of the sessions provided three key findings.

  1. Participants stressed that current curricula in elementary and middle schools are not preparing students well enough to succeed in STEM studies at higher levels. They wanted to see more resources focused on bolstering reading and math comprehension. Once a strong foundation is laid, virtual reality mod- ules, after-school and elective STEM programs, and student apprenticeships will have a greater chance of generating students’ interest in STEM studies.
  2. Educators need adequate resources and training to foster a strong STEM learning environment within the current set of educational requirements. Participants were very receptive to the idea of professional development programs that would educate them about the manufacturing industry and train them to incorporate such lessons into the classroom. Other requests for help related to learning how to create an integrated STEM lesson plan and workshops on writing grants. Additionally, nearly 100% of participants indicated they would be likely to use an online hub that provided a variety of STEM resources such as career exploration for students and a list of industry speakers and contact information.
  3. The current perception of manufacturing in America must change. Resources need to be used to tackle the stereotypes and biases that exist around manufacturing careers. Students and parents, especially, must be shown that manufacturing is successful and respectable. In addition, working to encourage students to enter STEM fields could help diversify the population in the manufacturing industry. Apprenticeships, mentoring programs, grant funding, and marketing campaigns can all be sources of a positive impact on the way students and parents view manufacturing.
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