WEC’s STEM-Ersion is a two day professional development program that gives educators the opportunity to explore workforce needs with industry leaders and to gain vital information that keeps their classrooms up to date. Day one consists ofindustry tours where teachers are exposed to cutting edge technology and skills valued by industry. On day two, a curriculum designer demonstrates project based learning lessons drawn from the STEM-Ersion experience. Teachers are given materials to introduce the projects into their classrooms. Each teacher also receives a stipend for participating in the STEM-Ersion.
The STEM-Ersions could not succeed without the help of WEC partners in the region. Doing What MATTERS for Jobs and the Economy, pays for teacher stipends, speaker fees and teacher project materials, VC Innovates covers transportation costs and helps coordinate teacher recruitment, community service organizations pay for meals and snacks, and various industry partners provide teacher tours. Without these partners, the STEM-Ersion programs would not be possible.
STEM-Ersion – Agriculture
The STEM-Ersion opened with presentations from Dr. Ben Faber from the University of California and Ventura County Ag Commissioner Henry Gonzales. Their presentations familiarized us with current, past, and future ag conditions in Ventura County. Next up, we toured Mission Produce, Deardorff Family Farms organic yard, and Houweling's Tomatoes. The tours included everything from the largest packing plant in North America to hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes to organic celery fields and high tech seed processing.
Day two started with an in depth tour of Monsanto's high tech seed processing operation. Monsanto employees then explained the GMO world and shared four amazing project based learning lessons with our teachers:
- Strawberry DNA removal
- A "Farmer Game" requiring students to make growing decisions in four regions of the globe, and to calculate ROI
- "Tomatosphere" provides the opportunity to use the scientific method to document the difference in germination of tomato seeds that have traveled in space and seeds that have not
- "Armadillo Challenge" calls upon students' critical thinking skills to solve this South American pest control issue
Materials and instructional videos are available on the WEC website to all Sterm-Ersion teacher alumni.
STEM-Ersion – Biotech
The biotech industry is constantly changing; if teachers do not have the opportunity to visit industry sites, it’s difficult for them to stay current. Our two day Biotech STEM-Ersion brought 15 educators into the labs of some of Ventura County’s most advanced biotech businesses.
Day one took teachers to Monsanto where they walked the plant floor and learned about GMO’s and seed processing. The next stop was an Amgen cutting-edge lab where employees from various departments shared info about careers and skills needed to succeed in biotech. The day finished with a talk about “Biotech Jobs of the Future” featuring Nathalie Gosset from IEEE and a tour of Kinamed. The teachers spent day two on the CSUCI campus where the Amgen Biotech Experience team demonstrated a plethora of lab projects, from extracting DNA from strawberries to constructing edible DNA models. Amgen will loan teachers the equipment necessary to implement these lessons in their classrooms. Lessons like these will encourage Ventura County students to explore STEM career opportunities.
STEM-Ersion – Healthcare
Like students, teachers need to learn about the broad variety of careers available to students. On day one of of this STEM-Ersion, teachers explored approximately 20 healthcare careers ranging from dental hygienist to pediatric occupational therapist to chiropractic sports physiotherapist. On day 2, guest speaker Starla Ewan not only shared great classroom management tools with the teachers, she also taught them how to construct the muscular, vascular and neurological systems out of clay. The teachers went home with enough materials to repeat the project with 20 students.
STEM-Ersion – Manufacturing
In order for teachers to best align what they teach with workplace needs, it’s important for them to see how the skills that they teach in the classroom are put to use in the workplace. This summer program provides teachers with an opportunity to view the lessons that they teach at work.
The STEM-Ersion starts with tours of eight manufacturing plants. Teachers speak with plant managers about the skills that they teach, what skills manufacturers need in new hires and career pathways that are open to students. Day 2 is filled with blueprint reading and operation of shop equipment followed by construction and testing of catapults. On day 3, a curriculum designer helps teachers plan lessons based on the STEM-Ersion experience. Each teacher agrees to introduce a project based leaning lesson into their curriculum.