The BlueSTEM AgriLearning Center is a collaborative effort between the USDA Grazingland Research Laboratory and Historic Fort Reno, Inc. The purpose of this center is to strengthen ties between Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and local school districts, to enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) educational opportunities for elementary, secondary, undergraduate and graduate students through outreach and education, internships and student research projects to be conducted with ARS mentors, and to improve communication about the importance of agriculture, agricultural research and the findings of the Grazinglands Research Laboratory to the public.
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. According to the National Science Foundation, “Education at all levels in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—STEM—develops, preserves, and disseminates knowledge and skills that convey personal, economic, and social benefits. Higher education provides the advanced work skills needed in an increasingly knowledge-intensive, innovation-focused economy and society.”
Furthermore, President Obama launched the Educate to Innovate initiative in 2009. In 2010, the President helped launch Change the Equation a new non-profit with full-time staff dedicated to mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM education in the United States.
Locally, Oklahoma governor, Mary Fallin has recognized the need for STEM education by launching a new initiative for Oklahoma Works. According to Governor Fallin, “It is an aggressive plan to support partnerships between local businesses, career tech, higher education and K-12 schools. Oklahoma Works is about getting students and adults the tools and skills they need to find great careers. It’s also about ensuring we have a skilled, educated workforce that can support our businesses.”
- Prepare students for the global economy by strengthening their skills in STEM disciplines. To do this students must acquire problem solving skills, become critical thinkers, and become innovative.
- Provide quality, authentic professional development opportunities for educators and students.
- Connect STEM curriculum to real-world problems.
- The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) identifies four major goals of STEM Education, examined in the table below. By keeping these objectives in mind, BlueSTEM AgriLearning Center is developing a set of practices intended to meet these specific goals.
- According to the U.S. Department of Education the average number of hours per week spent on science in grades 1-4 is approximately 2.5.
- Few students conduct hands-on investigations because science teachers say they don’t have the resources they need to conduct such investigations.
- Few students and/or everyday citizens are exposed to the scientific processes which foster problem-solving and critical thinking skills. These skills also equip students to be informed and responsible citizens.
- Hands-on projects enrich STEM learning and offer an exciting opportunity to engage more students in STEM.
Goals and Objectives
The overall goals of this program are to:
- Engage students and teachers in scientific research projects to address real-world issues.
- Provide student and teacher mentorship.
- Link students and teachers to professionals in the field.
- Mentor and motivate students underrepresented in the sciences as they plan and conduct environmental science research projects and acquire the skills that will allow them to build careers and to become more active stewards of their communities and the environment.