Fargo-Moorhead schools and business leaders are joining forces to give students the skills to succeed in the world, and they're doing it in fun and innovative ways.
Solving Real-World Challenges
Creating a cyber-subdivision in Africa, just one of the many projects engaging students at West Fargo Public School’s STEM Center, uses a hands-on curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Students are winning state and national awards for their creations such as phone apps and water filtration systems, says Michelle Weber, principal of the STEM Center for four years. The center is expanding, and local businesses and college instructors often participate in these projects to demonstrate how important these skills are for employability.
“We hear extraordinary comments," says Adam Gehlhar, assistant principal at Cheney Middle School, and a founding member of the STEM Center. "People in local businesses, industries and the engineering community are amazed at what our students are able to do.”
Fargo Public Schools just launched its five-year technology plan to provide every student in grades 6-12 with a tablet device, with select grades kick-starting the plan this year.
“People are very excited that we’re emphasizing 21st century skills – it’s what companies are looking for in the outside world,” says Jodell Teiken, Fargo’s director of instructional resources.
At Moorhead Area Public Schools, elementary students learn about technology through reading programs while high-school students can take engineering classes, and every middle-school student gets a taste of STEM, says Pam Gibbs, the district’s communications coordinator. One class partnered with John Deere Electronic Solutions to learn how to wire switches that operate lights.
Education and Industry: Partnering for the Future
Students going to college find many technology-based choices at Minnesota State University Moorhead and North Dakota State University, which offer undergraduate and graduate degrees, and at two-year colleges, Minnesota State Community and Technical College and North Dakota State College of Science. NDSU is in the planning stages for a new STEM classroom building on campus.
And to ensure higher education is meeting the needs of local industries, the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Council helps coordinate a series of meetings between MSUM and local businesses, collaboration that is leading to curriculum changes that will better qualify students for local jobs.
Summertime Is For Learning
Many Fargo area students and teachers are so enthused about technology that summertime doesn’t mean a break in learning. For example, there’s a program that puts teachers in local businesses for one month each summer to gain perspective on the real-world applications of what they teach.
Meanwhile, a partnership between NDSCS, Sanford Research (PROMISE Program) and MSUM offers summer STEM camps for middle- and high-school students who learn about everything from nanotechnology to researching rare diseases.
NDSU’s Center for Science and Math Education offers STEM-focused summer camps for youth in grades 3-8. NDSU also offers a summer undergraduate research program that gives participants the opportunity to gain valuable STEM research experience.
“What we’re doing is finding new ways to prepare students to become better workers in industries and get them ready for the 21st century," Weber says. "What could be more important?”
Check out more on education in Fargo, ND.