Eastern Allamakee Community School District receives BEST Grant through Iowa STEM Council

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

The Iowa Governor’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Advisory Council has announced that the Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) has been awarded a STEM BEST Grant. BEST stands for Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers.

The grant supports school-business partnerships on curriculum and projects. There were 22 grants awarded statewide. The district will receive up to $25,000 to support that initiative. The program will initially partner with Main Street Lansing, the Lansing Works organization headed by MaryAnn Baldwin, the Rural Iowa Business Association, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), Allamakee County Economic Development(ACED) and Keystone Area Education Agency (AEA).

Kee High School and Middle School Principal Dr. Sarah Updegraff shared, “The community partnership program at Eastern Allamakee Community Schools (EACS) will strive to connect local business and industry partners with students in grades 9-12 of all ability levels and academic status. Goals of the program initially are focused on building a program to encourage students to use passion-driven  and student-led projects to improve the community. The goal is to create self-disciplined learners and foster opportunities for real-life communication in an entrepreneurial setting.”

She elaborated, “Strategies for the program will grow out of the Agile work and scrum training through Keystone AEA. The Agile methodology is a way to manage a project by breaking it up into several phases. It involves constant collaboration with stakeholders and continuous improvement at every stage. Scrum is a scaled agile technique that offers a way to connect multiple teams who need to work together to deliver complex solutions. Once the work begins, teams cycle through a process of planning, executing and evaluating.”

Although Kee High School has had cooperative learning opportunities with local businesses and industry in the past, this program will offer a more concentrated focus. Dr. Updegraff further explained. “The staff member in charge of coordination and business support will act as a liaison between the student and business and industry, and not in a traditional teaching model. The staff will use the strategies of Agile and scrum to lead students to creating passion-driven projects, both student-created and business/industry driven, that have the potential to change and improve the community. In addition to the overall goals listed above, the program will have secondary goals that are geared specifically toward the growth of EACS students.”

Approximately 10% of the student body will be involved at the high school. The specific projects will all be special situations where the students will work with a community business to improve the community. Updegraff gave this example, “For example, last semester the students saw a need to increase advertising in Lansing. They approached a local business to see if they could partner with some more social media campaigning and they created a summer time Snapchat filter to boost advertising in that venue.”