As a public-school teacher, I find that I am always in need of help. Creating a STEM program that is as robust and engaging as the one I pilot takes time, skill and effort. But it wouldn’t come close to being as effective if it wasn’t for partnerships that I have engaged in. These relationships aid in many areas of growth and development and are one of the main reasons I can share success stories here and as I travel around speaking.
But how does one find good partnerships and what areas can be supported by building and maintaining these relationships?
Partnering with Universities
When designing my STEM program, I quickly realized that I couldn’t do it alone. I lacked the depth of knowledge that I needed to create meaningful, real-world projects for my students to engage in.
But then by chance, I was linked to a professor at a local university through a mutual friend. We had previously worked on a few smaller projects together, so he was quickly on board when I approached him about creating in-depth scientific explorations using STEM methodologies. Not only that, but he connected me with other university staff who contributed to the development of one of our most successful and engaging projects—exploring iron fertilization.
After we hashed out the core focus of the project and did some preliminary research, we came up with the basis of the experiment that students would complete and the materials needed. They also loaned us an extremely expensive tool that our students could use to collect precise data!
Exploring Business Partnerships
Local businesses are another treasure trove of opportunities to help you’re your STEM program. They’re always looking for ways to increase awareness, and schools can be just the partnership they need!
Besides monetary sustenance, local businesses are often willing to contribute myriad items that your program could use or consume. This past year, for example, a local brake shop donated used wheel rotors for our tornado probes. This saved us having to buy new! In return, I was more than happy to write them an excellent review on their website for their wonderful donation.
We have worked with a few smaller businesses to procure hard to find items or consumables in return for simply posting them as a partner of our program. Smaller businesses also have the advantage of making decisions on the spot without the long bureaucratic process that larger companies can have.
Finally, don’t overlook parents as an investment in your program. From simply talking to students about their own STEM careers to assisting you with procuring supplies, hard-to-find items, and invaluable volunteer hours, parents can be a make-or-break asset to your program. Some parents donate used items for students to disassemble, bring food, and help manage students on large field research trips. Parents are often an underutilized and overlooked resource, so build that relationship.
No matter what kind of program you are running, from a simple makerspace to a full-fledged fabrication shop, no STEM course is complete without help and insight from outside the school walls. These partnerships will push you, your projects and your students to the next level!