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Iowa Teachers Learning Lessons in Industry

July 26, 2013
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Cedar Falls, Iowa -"When am I EVER going to use this?" Fifty-seven middle- and high-school mathematics, science and technology teachers will have ready answers this fall for students after spending six weeks as participants in the Real World Externships Program offered through the Governor's STEM Advisory Council. Over 40 Iowa businesses and organizations are hosting teachers this summer, providing the opportunity for these teachers to experience the many ways that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) concepts are applied in the business and industry worlds. John Deere, Diamond Vogel, Ellison Technologies, HNI, Kemin, Monsanto, Principal Financial Group and Vermeer are just a few of the many companies and organizations that cost-share this program in addition to the National Science Foundation grant that makes this program possible.

"Our program gives teachers the opportunity to see the eventual outcome of the content, skills and techniques they teach in the classroom," said Jason Lang, Supervisor of the Real World Externship Program. "However, we know it's not just the teachers that benefit from the experience. Our teacher's abilities to work independently, be infinitely creative and offer new insight brings value to the Externship host as well."

Matching teacher-externs with businesses and organizations near their home school districts helps create lasting partnerships between industry and education. The Externship experience gives teachers insight into what skills are needed by today's employers, both in terms of content as well as employability skills. With this exposure teachers can give their students real-world career information, creating a future workforce in the area.

"The students are the ultimate beneficiaries of the program," said Meghan Reynolds, Program Coordinator. "Teachers bring relevance to their classrooms through lessons built off of their Externship experience, as well as the ability to counsel students toward STEM-careers that students may not have known existed."

Karl Goldsmith, a chemistry teacher at West Des Moines Valley High School placed with Kemin, Inc. in Des Moines, has seen the value of his Externship experience. "The most common question a student has for their teacher is 'why are we learning this' and I feel they are justified in their questioning," he said. "These real-world experiences provide a level of credibility when teaching students. If they know and can understand how the content they are learning is used, then they are more likely to focus and learn the material."

Since 2009, the Real World Externships program has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Iowa Economic Development Authority along with investments by Iowa business and industry partners. The program seeks to be self-sustained by Iowa businesses that recognize the program is beneficial to businesses, teachers and students and helps prepare Iowa's future workforce.

"We feel this partnership is a win/win for our business and for the teachers," said Grace Swanson, Vice President of Human Resources at Accumold in Ankeny and Externship host. "We get to help teachers see how a business works from the inside, and we also open the door to an on-going relationship with the community and the local school system."

For more information about the Real World Externship Program, or to learn more about STEM education in Iowa, contact the Governor's STEM Advisory Council Administration Office or visit



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