April 13, 2021: Lincoln STEM Ecosystem

An update on the Lincoln STEM Ecosystem from Director of Workforce Development Bryan Seck, and LPS Director of Strategic Initiatives and Focus Programs James Blake.

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Video Transcript

Mindy Burbach 0:00
Hello and welcome to LPS Live Board Preview. I’m communication director Mindy Burbach.

Don Mayhew 0:04
And I’m Don Mayhew Lincoln Board of Education member. We started this Facebook Live program to share what’s happening at Lincoln Public Schools and answer your questions.

Mindy Burbach 0:13
If you have any questions during our live show, please type them into the Facebook chat and we will try to get to them if we have time.

Don Mayhew 0:20
In 2019, Lincoln was selected to join the STEM learning ecosystems community of practice. Lincoln already has a wide variety of amazing opportunities for students and families. The goal of the ecosystem is to increase equity and access to experiences that connect in and out-of-school learning to the real world and could lead to STEM careers. Joining us today to give us an update on the Lincoln STEM ecosystem is director of workforce development. Bryan Seck and LPS Director of strategic initiatives and focus programs, James Blake. Gentlemen, thank you both for joining us today.

Bryan Seck 0:57
Thanks for having us.

Don Mayhew 0:58
All right, Bryan, let’s start with you. What is the Lincoln STEM ecosystem?

Bryan Seck 1:04
Sure, so the Lincoln STEM ecosystem, and for those of you unfamiliar STEM is science, technology, engineering and math is really thinking about how do we make the connection from schools to careers. But we’re not just talking about high school, we’re talking about K through 12. So we have an amazing company in Lincoln called Neogen. They do gene sequencing at 48th and Superior. But if you’re a student who’s interested in genetics, how would you know about that? So the Lincoln Lincoln STEM ecosystems provides the gateway for businesses to interact with students, interact with teachers, and vice versa. So when students do graduate, they’re aware of the careers that are out there and are able to connect to them, whether that’s straight out of high school into the workforce, after college, or during college.

Don Mayhew 1:53
So I think you’ve partly answered this next question, but James, let me ask it anyways, why is it important than that our LPS students participate in the STEM ecosystem.

James Blake 2:02
Great question, Don. So as we look at the timeline of when STEM ecosystem became a thing, nationally, and globally, it was actually about five or six years ago. And so we’re connecting and coming along in 2019, to a national network that already has research around its effectiveness to improve education. One thing that tends to happen is like most of us, we may not know that there’s more in common between math, science, social studies than there is different, because we put them in those different groups. On the STEM ecosystem side, we have, say, an aerospace engineer from Duncan Aviation, sitting beside an educator at a professional learning, and they’re kicking back and forth ideas that the company may use when they have youth come out and visit the business. And the classroom teacher gets more aware of those fields in education and can pull that in talking a little bit in my director of Strategic Initiatives role, which does start to get into what are the economic aspects of this and Lincoln. One thing we talk about between the Lincoln STEM ecosystem and Omaha has an established STEM ecosystem is that we have a lot of youth that won’t necessarily move here, for mountains or oceans. So that’s the obvious aspect. So we need to grow our own STEM professionals. As we look at jobs, statistics, labor statistics, STEM is a rapidly growing area and Lincoln. The companies that are on our steering committee that we’ll reference tonight, are in that category. And so we’re here to kind of feed that pipeline here in Lincoln.

Don Mayhew 3:33
So the pandemic changed all of our lives last year, and I’m sure that this has been affected as well. James, talk about that a little bit. Even in the face of the pandemic, what are some of the programs and projects that you’ve been able to implement?

James Blake 3:46
Well, I do have to point briefly at the pre-pandemic, because part of 2020 we were out doing what we set out to do. So we had a really good success with a STEM PLC day model. We held that first one at Riley Elementary, we used our K-12 working group led by Betsy Barent, who’s our K-12 science curriculum specialist, and the UNL engineering ambassadors. We had about 400 Riley students engaged in many hands on engineering activities. And we actually had ABC Construction, their vice president, Anne Klute and Duncan Aviation, Tracy Bohaboj, who’s an aerospace engineer, train on that platform, and we plan to take that to more elementary schools. It was very well received. Then as you said, the pandemic hit so we did some changing around a couple things. And I’ll spend a little more time on the LPS STEAMfest which is going on right now. But we scrambled, intentionally planned it was not a random scramble, we have the capacity and built a STEM-at-home resource with the help of Sally Wei from UNL. And that is out there right, now free for people to access, that one thing we’re most proud of this year and I’m going to spend a few minutes talking about this is the LPS STEAMfest. So for about over two decades, we’ve had 500 to 800, grade five through eight students go out to eventually ended up at the Lancaster Event Center and present their science fair projects with a lot, a lot of us are aware of that and have been judges and seen that event. And we didn’t want to lose that energy. We knew we couldn’t come together face to face. So we were able with the help of the Career Connections working group. And I think important to point out this is not grant-funded. So we have so much flexibility and how we come together, there aren’t really guidelines. So we put the group that’s connected with careers together with LPS curriculum specialists. And we’re able to create this event that got launched on April 8, which I’m going to talk a little about, there’s 1000s of things you can do with the stuff they’ve created. It’s reusable. So even in a non pandemic year, I think you’ll still find these things very usable. But just to point out, since this is kicked off, on the eighth, we’ve had 5500 page views 3300 unique viewers, the most we’ve ever had at the science fair is 800. So you can already see the reach in this digital environment. They’re running a T shirt design contest, so if anybody out there has someone who would like to submit, they have 70 designs submitted. This goes to the 24th of April. So we’d love to see your STEAM/STEM skills, submit those at the LPS website. And then they’ll print your design the winning design on 3300 t shirts that’ll be worn around Lincoln for years to come. And just to highlight some of the videos that are on the website, the engineering ambassadors, which is led by Sally WEI, who’s on our steering committee is one of the top resources that you could check out there’s many on there, they have a YouTube channel of engineering, things you can look at including magnet effect. And I see we have the website pulled up thank you BVH architecture, which I think is exactly what we’re looking for from businesses, they highlight Career Connections, they really talk about STEAM, not just STEM. So when you’re looking at the architecture field, they want the hardcore math engineer, but they don’t want their bridges to be ugly. So they want the artistic side, they want that in there. And again, a quick video you can check out from BVH. And the last thing I’ll wrap up with on the LPS STEAMfest is some quotes from participants that have been turned into the district. So picture an elementary upper elementary students saying this. One student said “For some reason, I feel smarter.” “I actually felt like I have some new things to think about, like why the moon is bigger than it was last night.” “I used to think science was not cool. Now it’s the best thing ever.” “I used to think steam was kind of boring. But now I think it’s fun and has a lot of opportunities for other kids.” So I just I’ll stop on that high note. But we’re really proud of the work that Lincoln STEM ecosystem was able to do to wrap around that effort for LPS and contribute to that even though it was much more than just the ecosystems effort.

Don Mayhew 7:57
I appreciate you mentioning the STEAM and STEAM and STEM and adding that arts component. And I know that, that there are a lot of folks who have talents in math and music, for example. And it’s neat to see, to see those programs reconciling with each other. James, one of the things that we have been doing this year as a board and as a district is looking at things through the through the lens of equity, and access. And I think that the program that you’re describing is outstanding. Could you please talk a little bit about our efforts to make sure that we are providing equitable access to all of our students for this?

James Blake 8:36
Yeah, that that’s a great thing to bring up, Don. So I actually had written this out as a note, and I had talked enough, I didn’t bring it up, but we’re digging into the LPS data. And we have full clearance to share that to the world, kind of where our opportunities are to grow in that area. So in the next month, we hope to pull a better data dashboard together, and it’s exactly about closing gaps and supporting students. Tonight at the school board, I get to present this and one of the pieces I’ll talk about that connects the federal level to our local level is that research is out there. And it’s it’s not real exciting. It’s kind of depressing that there’s some 2016 data, I’ll show you the chart tonight. But students that have a high population of students who are black students who are Latino, Latina, they tend to offer less science and math courses than those who are higher white in population nationally. So we’re gonna hold that up as a measuring stick. And hopefully, LPS is not in that same category. We’ll be checking on those things. And that does translate into jobs in the country. So if you look at all the jobs that people who are black or Hispanic people do, out of that only a small proportion are STEM. So we know there’s opportunity gaps in STEM that is not equal across all ethnicities. So we are keeping an eye on that and that’s part of our big focus.

Don Mayhew 9:56
Will you improve what you measure so I’m glad that we continue to look at that data and to to keep to keep being mindful of the impact that, you know, in trying to provide that access to all of our kids. Bryan, let’s go back to you for a second. Let’s talk about the future. What, you know, 5/10 years or further out, what does the future look like?

Bryan Seck 10:16
Absolutely. So before we before talking about the future, one thing that I wanted to add to equity that we can access right now is called JELO — Jobs and Extended Learning Opportunities. Every LPS student can access JELO through their Chromebooks. And what that is, is that’s an online database of businesses that are hiring, for internships, apprenticeships, part time jobs and full time jobs. So if you have a junior in high school, who’s looking to do something that summer, but maybe doesn’t know where to start, this is a wonderful opportunity, and then just showing it here, or if you’re a graduating senior, and you’re like, you know what I want to go into work right now. These are opportunities also. There’s also apprenticeship information through our electrical union, tons of opportunities there. So I just wanted to mention that as something that we have right now that’s available to the students to look at even see. So as I look 5 to 10 years out, what I really think about is how can we better connect businesses, to schools, and universities 10 years from now, there will be jobs that we don’t even know exist. I believe that the function of the STEM ecosystem is to ensure that those new businesses as they come into the fold, that we grab them, and connect them with schools, so they can understand when can I come to schools? How can I be a part of the career fairs? How can I have one of my employees come talk to students? What does that look like? The STEM ecosystem and James’s position as director of strategic partnerships, really provides that front door. So I think about a place like CompanyCam, CompanyCam did not exist five years ago. They’re a company that flies drones over construction sites, to better understand safety, compliance with OSHA, but also construction timeline, I bet there’s a lot of kids out there who love to fly drones, how can we make that connection to CompanyCam, so maybe those students now can become employees in the future. So when I look five to 10 years out, I think about emerging technologies, I think about emerging companies, in addition to our traditional employers, and helping make that connection to students, so they’re aware of and can connect to STEM careers.

Don Mayhew 12:28
We passed our bond election a year ago, and we’re building new schools. And this is one of the things that we sometimes talk about is that we have to be future looking with our design as we build our buildings, allowing for programming that, as you say, we will be teaching children to solve problems that don’t exist yet using technologies that haven’t yet been invented. And so it’s an interesting challenge trying to build a support and infrastructure for the future. So I appreciate you mentioning that, gentlemen, that that is the time that we have. Thank you both for joining us and talking about these opportunities for our kids. Mindy, fantastic job having the websites there so that we could take a look at it. Of course, this is playing on Facebook. So if people have questions, please type them in the comments below and we will respond to them as we can. For everybody watching, be sure that you join us for our regular board meeting at 6pm. You can watch it on our website at LPS.org or on the LNK TV education channel.

Mindy Burbach 13:29
Our next LPS board update on Facebook will be Friday, April 23 at noon and just like Don said, you can submit your questions on our Facebook page or if you go to our website lps.org click on the blue contact us button. And with that, thank you for joining us