A collaborative STEM career exploration learning community

MdBio Foundation has forged a powerful new partnership with Baltimore City Public Schools and Towson University designed to spark interest in STEM. This partnership, called IGNITE, will create a year-long, collaborative career exploration learning community between high school students, their science teachers, and bioscience industry partners to increase student awareness of and interest in STEM related careers. The program will also provide science teachers with relevant classroom resources to meet the recent state-mandated Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

The relationships developed between students and industry through IGNITE provide a unique opportunity to observe first-hand the types of careers available to students who follow a STEM-related educational path. IGNITE addresses the national need for more STEM-based educational programs by providing students with tools and experiences that will prepare them for professional careers. Furthermore, this program supports Maryland’s growing need for a workforce that both meets the needs of existing employers and attracts new businesses. The IGNITE program includes three major components: professional development for educators, student extracurricular groups (Spark), and industry partnerships.

newlook1Authentic science is built around inquiry, and students who are given an opportunity to practice inquiry in the classroom will have a true vision of what science is, creating greater interest in a STEM career. This program aims to increase teacher capacity to model authentic science inquiry in the classroom. As part of this partnership, we will create the Teacher Academy, a year-long professional learning community (15 hours over nine months). Within this learning community teachers will develop curriculum with a focus on learner-centered, inquiry-based pedagogy, as it relates to specific Maryland state mandated curriculum, CCSS and NGSS. Teachers who complete the full year commitment will also receive professional development credit.

newlook2Participating teachers will be asked to facilitate a student service-learning (SSL) group within their school. These alliances, called Spark, provide additional out-of-classroom time for students to engage in further exploration and take part in community service opportunities. Suggested activities include student service opportunities such as tutoring and mentorship, laboratory experiences, industry visits, and scientific speakers. Students will investigate local life science products and research, explore the real-life applications of research, and better understand the path to starting a career in STEM.

The organizing teacher within each school drives Spark activities. MdBio Foundation will provide organizing support and a suggested calendar of activities, in addition to holding three cohort-wide events. A suggested minimum of nine Spark meetings with students should be held. During these meetings students will interact with scientific researchers, hands-on activities, or earn SSL hours. Past SSL opportunities include peer mentorship or tutoring of middle school students. Teachers may hold any number of meetings depending on their students’ interest and individual schedules to explore additional content they would like to incorporate.

Industry Partnerships

Key to student career exploration is the strategic partnership between City Schools and local bioscience organizations. Participating organizations will host Spark groups for exposure to their organization and related careers as well as products and/or research. These partnerships allow private industry to engage future workers, spark interest in science careers, and create better informed decision-makers as a whole. Several prominent organizations, including MedImmune, Emergent BioSolutions, and University of Maryland BioPark have committed to participate. MdBio Foundation will draw upon its broad-reaching network of relevant organizations statewide to meet the needs of all of the participating teachers and students.

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