Externships Power Through the Pandemic

2020 STEM Teacher Externship Forum
The 2020 STEM Teacher Externship Forum, first-time virtual, brought together teacher externs and workplace hosts to reflect on summer experiences and discuss potential future opportunities.

Nearly 100 STEM Teacher Externs, extern mentors, STEM team members and former, current and prospective workplace hosts gathered virtually for the 2020 STEM Teacher Externship Forum earlier this month.

The forum kicked off with a presentation of project-based learning lessons compiled by each of the 48 intrepid teacher externs willingly professionally developing safely amidst a pandemic. STEM Council Executive Director Jeff Weld welcomed forum attendees, followed by a breakout session where teacher externs and workplace hosts split into meeting rooms to share about their experience and make classroom connections.

Tying their externships to a related opportunity, STEM BEST Project Coordinator Tanya Hunt shared how teachers and workplaces can expand on this summer’s work by getting involved in the STEM BEST Program.

"This program can extend the authentic learning experience just had through the extern experience into the classroom. Schools and businesses collaborate through these partnerships to provide engaging opportunities to students all the while building upon the local talent pipeline. It is a natural segue to anyone who has benefited from the experience of spending their summer as an extern,” said Hunt.

A STEM BEST Program awardee and former STEM Teacher Extern Marc Benedict shared firsthand experience about how impactful the program is for educators, community partners and especially students who participate.

A second breakout session was held for workplace hosts to take a deeper look at the Teacher Externship experience and for teachers to share professional development experiences and share resources.

Award-winning Sibley-Ocheyedan science teacher Mike Wedge closed the forum with reflections on how his own externship years ago has transformed what and how he teaches, charging all the externs to bring their own workplace adventures to students.

“I encourage all externs to let their experience continue to influence how you approach learning in your classroom. Furthermore, look for any opportunity to make a connection with local businesses and sponsors. And, finally, continue to influence your students by fostering an environment where they can productively struggle through a challenge and learn that mistakes are so important in learning,” said Wedge.

To learn more about how to get involved in the STEM Teacher Externships Program, visit IowaSTEM.gov/externships.

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