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Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education
The two most critical ingredients for an effective STEM initiative are students and teachers. The magic happens when both are empowered with the tools to succeed. CH2M supports innovative programs to inspire students and enable teachers around the world.
Founded by a professor and three of his students, CH2M has a long-standing passion for supporting innovative education programs. Students of all ages receive support from CH2M to study STEM because these topics are widely recognized as critical skillsets in solving the challenges facing our planet in the 21st century. We focus on encouraging students through the STEM pipeline by preparing young people for future workforce requirements at each level of schooling:
- Elementary/primary school: We team with programs that introduce students to the fun and diverse world of STEM. One such program is the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) program in Denver, a program with which we have partnered for a third consecutive year. Over a 3-week period, 300 kids in grades 3 through 5 spend Monday through Friday designing, building, testing, and troubleshooting various project toys. In the process, they develop their math and science skills. Developed by the NSBE, SEEK Denver is offered at no cost and introduces many students to a field to which they may not have had previous exposure. According to the National Science Foundation, a significant disparity persists in STEM participation among African-Americans. The program relies on up to 50 college mentors who guide the students and serve as role models. A CH2M Foundation grant helped provide stipends for the mentors who are majoring in STEM fields, reinforcing the connection between their studies to the workforce opportunities that can come their way.
Another program is the Girls Inc. STEM Group in Portland, Oregon. CH2M scientists and engineers volunteered their time to be associate mentors to third- through fifth-grade girls as they identify and plan community service projects that use the technical expertise of the mentors. In addition to sharing knowledge and time, the mentors facilitate positive group work experiences, collaborate on group agreements, and become female STEM role models for the girls. In 2015, the Girls Group and associate mentors explored the issue of food waste. They put their research to work through a public awareness campaign, starting with their own school cafeteria. Together, the Girls Group and the associate mentors created a poster—the girls designed characters to deliver their message, “No Thanks to Food Waste!” while the mentors worked to review food waste facts. Increasing awareness of reducing food waste is the first step in leading the school and the community to more sustainable ways that result in stronger and healthier environments, while reducing the community’s environmental footprint. The final poster hangs in the school cafeteria and in CH2M lunch rooms. It was shared with Portland Metro and EPA Region 9, two of CH2M’s clients, who also had a food waste reduction priority for 2015.Girls Inc. STEM Group (Girl’s Group) in Portland, Oregon, and associate mentors, created this poster to share food waste facts, with the overarching message of, "No Thanks to Food Waste!"
- Middle school: When students are exposed early to what a STEM career looks like, they can make more informed decisions about their futures. Girls Inc. of Metro Denver’s Eureka! STEM program provides 8th grade girls with the opportunity to discover the doors that can open to them with a STEM education. Through a 5-year program that systematically guides 30 girls every year toward high school graduation, each individual receives summer enrichment on a college campus, exposure to role models in STEM jobs, confidence-building outdoor activities, a meaningful internship, and even an experience abroad. By the time the first cohort of girls reaches their senior year, studies show that they will be equipped to choose any number of STEM majors with confidence and experience. CH2M provided funding to pilot the program over the summer and, in 2016, will serve as cosponsor of the program, along with the Women’s Foundation of Colorado.
- High school: The London-based Social Mobility Foundation helps high-achieving young people from low-income backgrounds enter top professions, including engineering, business, law, and politics. A 2015 CH2M Foundation grant builds on the success of the first engineering residential program offered in August 2014. The initial grant supported one-on-one mentoring between students and engineering professionals; a free structured, 1-week, onsite work placement in our London office during summer 2014 for twenty 16- and 17-year-olds; and support for skills workshops on networking, resume writing, presentations, and interviews. One of the 2014 student participants noted of her experience, “It's inspired me to want to become an engineer and made me realize that you can do anything regardless of what background you're from if you are willing to work hard enough. This whole experience has helped me a lot with understanding what I need to do to be successful.”
- Young adults: Science careers offer an ever-changing landscape of opportunities for those who enjoy the excitement of inquiry and thrill of discovery. The Emirates Foundation, based in Abu Dhabi, celebrates the bright futures that science brings to young Emirati men and women through its “Think Science Competition,” held every spring in partnership with the Ministry of Education, the Abu Dhabi Education Council, and private sector partners like CH2M. The idea behind the competition is to encourage young people to design, develop, and build science based innovations, and apply science skills in solving practical problems. For the first time in 2015, the CH2M Foundation provided a grant for the annual science fair and dozens of CH2M employees volunteered their time throughout the 3-day event to talk with students intrigued by CH2M’s engineering feats.
When teachers are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to foster a new generation of STEM-enabled students, everyone wins. The CH2M Foundation established two new partnerships in 2014 to achieve this goal.
- Teach First: Dynamic, passionate individuals are recruited from across the United Kingdom to raise the achievement, aspirations, and access to opportunity for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Its trainees join the Leadership Development Program, which involves teaching for a minimum of 2 years in a school in challenging circumstances, achieving a postgraduate certificate in education, and wider leadership skills training. Since 2002, over 5,000 teachers have been recruited, trained, and supported by Teach First—half of these to teach STEM subjects. Teach First works with universities, businesses, government, and nongovernment organizations to narrow achievement gaps and increase university graduation rates of young people from low-income areas in England and Wales.
The CH2M Foundation’s grant supports high-quality STEM teachers in disadvantaged secondary schools across England and Wales by recruiting and placing up to 12 STEM teachers in classrooms to prepare 2,000 students for university placements and STEM careers. In 2015, the staff from CH2M’s Birmingham office joined with Teach First to host guest teacher sessions and a Careers Insight Day for one of Birmingham’s inner city schools, Heartlands Academy. The aim of this was to highlight opportunities available to school leaders in the coming years. The academy, located near the terminus of HS2, the proposed high-speed rail link to London, had CH2M provide guest lessons to year 12 students. These lessons provided insight into the day-to-day life of an engineer working on a major project like HS2. Organizer, CH2M’s Joanna Mole, said: “CH2M was delighted to have been involved in this important event. Coming into schools like this is fantastic, and it is so encouraging to see students and teachers get behind some of the initiatives Birmingham Council and the National High Speed Rail College are providing to help create a strong pipeline of high skilled jobs for young people in Birmingham and the West Midlands.”
- Smithsonian Science Education Academy for Teachers: How did you spend your summer vacation? It’s a typical question for teachers to ask students, but what if it were reversed? That’s where the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., enters the picture. In collaboration with other museums and units of the Smithsonian, the Smithsonian Science Education Center creates and delivers week-long professional development academies for teachers of science. The academies bridge the gap between formal and informal science education by combining training in science content and pedagogy with behind-the-scenes experiences at a wide variety of Smithsonian units and world-class science research facilities throughout the Washington, D.C., area. Introduced to this program by the Dow Foundation, the CH2M Foundation provided funding in 2015 and 2016 to partner with Dow to send 30 teachers to the 2016 academies from California, Louisiana, and Texas. Funding from both foundations will sponsor a 2-day science symposium in 2016 in St. Charles, Louisiana, for teachers in that community who are unable to attend an event that would require a week out of town.