Public/Private Partnership Equips Teachers to Prepare Students for the 21st Century

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Central Methodist University and Inovatia Laboratory are presenting Energizing Math, Engineering, Technology and Science (METS or STEM) for the Middle Grades to four teacher workshops this summer. Teachers from every corner of the state will meet to equip themselves how to better prepare students for the challenges of finding a job in the 21st Century.

I have attempted to make the argument that teachers are economic developers

A $335,043 congressionally-directed grant from the U.S. Department of Education, and facilitated by Congressman Sam Graves, will fund a joint public/private program aimed at equipping 104 Missouri teachers with the skills to prepare their students for 21st Century jobs. The program, entitled Energizing Math, Engineering, Technology and Science (METS or STEM) for the Middle Grades is being presented by Inovatia Laboratories and Central Methodist University, both located in Fayette.

The week-long programs will take place in four locations, including Chillicothe High School from July 6-10, Bonne Terre at North County High School from July 20-24, Fayette at Central Methodist University from July 27-31, and Poplar Bluff at Three Rivers Community College from August 3-7.

The program targets 6th to 8th grade teachers and will be conducted by Dr. James "Tiger" Gordon, CMU professor of chemistry and division of mathematics and science chair; Dr. Larry Peery, CMU professor of physics; and J.B. Waggoner, managing partner at Inovatia Laboratories.

"American students have fallen further behind the rest of the world in math and physical sciences, so the need to improve in these areas cannot be understated" says Gordon. "Conceptually, this began 15-years ago when Larry and I saw a need to better equip teachers in the physical sciences. METS will attempt to equip teachers to bridge that gap."

"We are targeting grades 6-8 because the middle grades are incredibly important," says Peery. "Studies have shown elementary students score just as well as their counterparts overseas in the METS areas. Beginning in middle school and junior high, those scores drop off, making this the most critical area to focus our efforts on." In addition to issues inside the classroom, Peery would like to see a wholesale change in attitude toward math and science.

"It's not just the attitudes of kids we need to change; we need to change the attitude of parents as well," says Peery. "Parents get excited when their children score a touchdown or hit a home run. But, they should be even more excited when their children take first place in the science fair or win the math bowl. That is a critical attitude change that must take place."

Education is not the sole goal of this program. "I have attempted to make the argument that teachers are economic developers," says Waggoner. "The jobs of the future, without question, will be technology based. Currently, the U.S. is lagging behind many other countries, when it comes to producing graduates trained in the METS disciplines. We need to remedy this very disturbing trend."

During each workshop, participants will experience activities, problems and demonstrations designed to challenge students at varying levels of difficulty. In addition to curriculum topics, there will be special instruction on classroom use of Texas Instruments Calculator-Based Laboratory systems (a sensor-based technology) and Lego Mindstorm robotics. Each participant will receive the equipment for the calculator-based lab and a Mindstorm robot for their classroom, along with three hours of credit from CMU and a $750 stipend.

Dr. Gordon says, "We have a long-standing relationship with Inovatia Laboratories. This program is a continuation of that relationship which we hope will provide a model for other public/private ventures of this nature."

Founded in 1854, Central Methodist University hosts a faculty of teachers, mentors, and scholars dedicated to providing extraordinary attention to the individual learner. With offerings ranging from high-school dual credit to graduate studies, and a total enrollment of more than 4,500, its liberal arts and pre-professional programs are centered on a character core that has twice brought Central Methodist national recognition for its leadership in character education.

Inovatia Laboratories is an independent contract research organization (CRO) providing research, analysis, consultation and technology development services to public and private entities world-wide. Inovatia's core competencies reside within the field of analytical chemistry and its related materials and instrumentation. These competencies are applied to a number of industries including chemical development and manufacturing, pharmaceutical research, and environmental monitoring and remediation.

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