Record-setting summer on the horizon for Teacher Externships

Match-meetings take place across Iowa this month to prepare for Iowa STEM Teacher Externships this summer.
Match-meetings take place across Iowa this month to prepare for Iowa STEM Teacher Externships. Pictured L to R: Carrie Rankin, STEM council assistant director for development, Design Mill CEO Nathan Grenier, and Dubuque area teacher Mike Jensen.

It started off with 10 Teacher Externs in 2009. A small cohort of intrepid Iowa teachers would be the first of hundreds to experience an Iowa STEM Teacher Externship in an Iowa workplace, funded initially by a Careers grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority that was quickly parlayed into a prestigious National Science Foundation grant as a research project.*

Now, eight years later, the concept is fully proven and the model is wholly sustainable thanks to cost-sharing Workplace Hosts—this year, to the tune of $156,000, including a grant from Iowa DNR’s Resource Enhancement and Protection Conservation Education Program. With their help, alongside the STEM Council’s matching investment in the program, this ninth season is exceeding benchmarks. A record-high 66 Teacher Externs are fanning out across the state, preparing to apply their knowledge and skills in the world of work this summer to bring back to school new home-grown lessons and career information for students.  

The six-week immersions begin in mid-June from one corner of Iowa to another and in a variety of STEM fields. While teachers build new ways to tie state academic standards into the available jobs and skills needed by local workplaces, businesses find the help they need to complete significant projects that bring value to the organization. Take for example:

Design Mill Inc, Dubuque: An engineering/industrial technology teacher will help build augmented and virtual reality programming, as well as work with 3D models.

DuPont Pioneer, Johnston: While two biology teachers work on optimizing tissue culture conditions and reagent delivery for efficient genome editing in canola, a computer science teacher will help develop a Lab Information Management system for that genome editing.

Iowa DNR, Spirit Lake: A mathematics teacher will evaluate statewide aquatic invasive species data, looking for trends and relationships that could be of great value to the biologists.

Their students will be the ultimate beneficiaries. Externships in Iowa businesses and agencies were identified by teachers at over 90 percent frequency to be the best professional development experience they’d ever had, according to the project’s independent evaluators.  Follow the excellent Teacher Extern adventures all summer on Twitter and Facebook. If you want to see where an Externship is happening near you, use this map and visit for more information about the program.

*National Science Foundation Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) Strategies Project Grant #DRL-1031784, Jeff Weld, PI. 

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