The purpose of this blog is to explore Louisiana's strategy and capacity for advancing STEM education, careers, and workforce for all. Louisiana has its own array of STEM assets, strengths and approaches in place - thus this site is designed to discover these strategies and activities. Not just a PK12 issue - all stakeholders, higher education, workforce development, economic development, business & industry, are welcome to participate. Hopefully the site will pose and answer questions that will ultimately help guide and focus diverse partners in this effort.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Building a strong, more diverse workforce begins with collaboration

This recent article in the Baton Rouge Advocate provides a shining example of what our state will need to build a growing economy – kids interested in STEM.  Camp Quest, a week-long summer STEM camp held last week, has many elements of what the Noyce Foundation would label a STEM ecosystem.  STEM learning ecosystems, a new term used to describe formal and informal education collaborations, “encompasses schools, community settings such as after-school and summer programs, science centers and museums, and informal experiences at home and in a variety of environments that together constitute a rich array of learning opportunities for young people.”  This unique collaboration between faith-based community, STEM-related business and organizations, as well as teachers from the community provided inquiry-based programming and field trips that not only sparked interest in STEM careers but also reinforced positive relationships all around.

Organizations such as Solvay and the Interdenominational Faith Assembly should be applauded for sponsoring this effort, as well as volunteer teachers, LIGO, and Pennington Biomedical Research Center for participating.  

Link to article: Camp Quest gives kids exposure to science, math fields: A Quest for Learning (July 1, 2014), Kyle Peveto and photos by Hilary Scheinuk

Noyce Foundation white paper: How Cross-Sector Collaborations are Advancing STEM Learning (February, 2014),  Kathleen Traphagen and Saskia Traill.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Google's "Made With Code" Site and Why Coding is a Big Deal

Check out Google's great new site that encourages girls to learn to code.  It provides the projects, mentors, makers, and resources for girls to experiment with programming and the computer science field. Particularly important today for boosting our nation and state's innovation and competitive factor, computer science is a diverse field that has become essential to so many things, from art to business to government to entertainment.  In fact, according to the Louisiana Workforce Development Commission and Office of Louisiana Economic Development, the most competitive entry level worker through 2022 will have a degree in computer science.  However critical, computer science is a STEM field that needs more girls!  In fact, less than 1% of female students major in computer science. 

Let's see what we can do about this!

Links to this site and others: 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Grant Opportunity: Building STEM Equity in Louisiana Schools and Community Colleges

Apply today to participate in the Louisiana Stem Equity Pipeline Project

Louisiana has participated in the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) STEM Equity Pipeline™ activities since September 2013 and is pleased to announce the opportunity for pilot site participation in our state. The purpose of the STEM Equity Pipeline project is to develop strategies to increase female participation and completion in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-related programs, including nontraditional career and technical education programs, offered at the high school and community college levels. Site-based teams will participate in a professional development program that includes data analysis for identifying equity gaps, root cause action research, and implementation of research-based strategies. The State Leadership Team will select up to four pilot sites – Deadline is June 27, 2014.

A kick-off webinar for this opportunity, hosted earlier in May, described Louisiana’s critical need for building a STEM-skilled workforce. Specifically, presenters addressed what the future STEM economy is in Louisiana, how the state can prepare and develop a diverse workforce to meet this demand, and the roles of education, workforce development, and business and industry.  

Interested high schools and community colleges should visit the Louisiana STEM Equity Pipeline webpage to access the pilot site application, view the archived webinar, and learn more about STEM Equity Pipeline activities in Louisiana.

The webinar, entitled "Build a Strong STEM Pipeline for Louisiana," featured the following speakers:
  • First Lady of Louisiana, Supriya Jindal
  • Susana Schowen, Workforce Initiatives Manager, Louisiana Economic Development
  • David Helveston, Executive Director, Louisiana Workforce Commission
  • Beatrice Arvie, Director of Academy of Engineering, Scotlandville Magnet High School, Baton Rouge
  • Mimi Lufkin, CEO, National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity
To learn more about the STEM Equity Pipeline project, visit

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

IT-Girls - Creative Programming Event for EBR Middle School Students

IT-Girls Creative Programming event hosted by La-WIT and key sponsors (Geocent, La Tech Park, and Foundation for East Baton Rouge School System) featured in Advocate.

Computer programming is fun, and easier than Brianna Palmer thought.The McKinley Middle Magnet School seventh-grader sat in the gymnasium at Lee High Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Magnet Academy on May 2 eating lunch with classmates Ariel Cotton, also in seventh grade, and Phoebe Hemmering, a sixth-grader, during a break in the morning-long IT Girls Technology Workshop.

Palmer’s ease with computer programming comes as no surprise to Kristen Reeves, creator of Louisiana Women in Technology, a networking group for women in the Baton Rouge area working in science, technology, engineering and math-related careers. The group also made the workshop possible, from organizing the event to providing volunteer programming teachers.

Reeves works as a senior systems administrator for Geocent, a Baton Rouge technology company, and says she always knew she’d choose a career in computer science. She gives at least partial credit to her early exposure to the field.

“My high school offered a program, so I started that my sophomore year,” Reeves said. “By the time I was a senior, I was leading projects,” despite the fact that she was one of the only girls in her computer science classes. And it was awkward.

She didn’t want girls who could learn to love her field to be driven away by those circumstances, so she and her colleagues decided to become the mentors they thought were needed.

“We’ve had great support from the community (to put on the workshop),” she said. “We’re calling this our pilot project, and we’re hoping to expand it into a weeklong event down the road,” Reeves added.

Volunteers led the 40 sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade girls through a short tutorial on a programming platform called Scratch, after which the students paired up to create video games, the object of which was to teach young children what to pack in a hurricane emergency.

It’s an area where most of them have some experience.
That’s one of the things Lee High Principal Averil Sanders Jr. liked about the event, and is in keeping with what he has in mind when he thinks of his school’s mission.

“We tend to move away from theory, to application-, project-based learning,” Sanders said.

At the end of the two-hour session, the girls had a fairly complete game ready, with sound effects, a point system they designed themselves and visual components working together.

“It’s amazing what they can pick up in just a couple of hours,” said Dima Ghawi, talent development manager at IBM’s Baton Rouge service center, and one of many women who spent the past few months planning the workshop.

After lunch, the girls participated in team-building exercises.
“That’s another important component for a successful career, no matter what your field,” Ghawi said.

“It was fun,” Palmer said, and while she’s not convinced she’ll ever make a career out of video game programming, she understands the importance of being familiar with computer science.

Palmer and Hemmering have already taken some form of computer design class, and Cotton plans to do so next year.

As for being comfortable with a male-dominated field, Katie Assaf has been programming for a while, and there’s a pretty even mix of genders in all her classes.

“I’ve used Python, and that’s mostly writing code,” she said.

The Westdale Middle eighth-grader said she thinks the world is changing fast on that front.
Reeves hopes to keep that momentum rolling by letting the young and tech-savvy girls in Baton Rouge know they’re here, and ready to help.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Congratutations to Iberville Parish for Launching Dual Credit Program with BRCC

Myiesha Bell and Amanda Mayeaux (BRCC) Photo by Advocate Staff -Arthur Lauck
Myiesha Bell (right) and "16 other high school juniors and seniors from MSA-East and Plaquemine High School are members of the inaugural class of students attending the Iberville Parish School District’s Dual Enrollment Program at BRCC."  According to BRCC's website, a junior has the potential to earn up to 30 hours of credit before high school graduation. Not only is this a cost savings but has proven to remove typical barriers to post-secondary education for under-represented youth.  I applaud both Iberville Parish and East Baton Rouge Parish for participating in this program.

Read more... 

Friday, June 14, 2013

LPB to Host "Status of STEM in Louisiana" Public Square Meeting

I applaud Louisiana Public Broadcasting for initiating this long overdue topic!  (See description below)

About a year ago I started this blog for the same reason. Meaningful dialog, such as this from all sectors (well-represented workforce, nonprofit, and governmental leaders and education voices, combined with STEM-knowledgeable experts) is essential to establish a Louisiana STEM agenda that could impact many programs leading to much needed STEM talent development described.  

After seven years of working in the STEM education arena in Texas, I learned that the following were critical:

1.  Cohesive strategy and alignment (business, academic and non-academic)
2.  Advocacy for higher science and math standards or adoption of engineering standards in K12
3.  Increased support for inspirational STEM learning opportunities (during AND beyond the school day), such as projects, internships, and mentorships for high school and post-secondary students that provide key exposure to STEM professionals
4.  Teacher education reform such as UTEACH and many others around the state that stress project-based pedagogy and technology
5.  Parent/community awareness building
6.  Support of high-need, cutting-edge associate’s degree programs
7.  And of course, resource allocation for facilities, technology, curriculum, or teaching resources for PK16 classrooms.

Tune in and be a part of the conversation!  “STEM Status: Science, Technology, Engineering & Math in Louisiana” airing Wednesday, June 26 at 7 p.m. on LPB
A How can Louisiana better equip its citizens for future STEM positions?

Occupations in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are projected to grow by nearly 10% over the next five years. Experts estimate Louisiana alone will have 69,000 STEM job vacancies by 2018. But who will fill these positions?

Nationwide, more than 300,000 jobs are currently being left vacant because employers can’t find individuals skilled enough in STEM. In Louisiana, 40% of eighth-graders report never designing a science project. Only 3% of high-school seniors take advance college placement tests in science. While male students have shown a recent increased interest in STEM, Louisiana females’ interest has been decreasing since 2008.

So, how can Louisiana better equip its citizens for future STEM positions? Are Louisiana’s educators adequately prepared to teach STEM courses? And how can students be encouraged to pursue STEM careers? Louisiana Public Square looks for answers to these questions and more on “STEM Status: Science, Technology, Engineering & Math in Louisiana” airing Wednesday, June 26 at 7 p.m. on LPB HD.

This program is made possible in part through a grant from Dow Chemical Company.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

STEM - Beyond the School Day

Last week I was in charge of my two grandchildren, ages 4 and 5, while their parents were out of town. Besides the rigorous routine of getting them up every morning and successfully to school and back, I had the most interesting experience of asking the age-old question: “What did you learn at school today?”  What is most interesting to me however, is that both grand-daughter and -son designated science lessons as the most memorable.  Although science gets a bad rap most of the time, the truth is that when science is taught in a hands-on and inquiry-based approach, these lessons become the most exciting element of the day. When children take on the role of scientist, experimenter, and inventor, they become the expert and feel confident.

Which brings me to the afterschool STEM movement …

Afterschool programs are a rapidly growing national strategy to boost STEM achievement and expose underrepresented students to STEM careers. The afterschool and informal science fields are finding that the inclusion of high quality STEM learning experiences such as investigating, reasoning, analyzing, concluding, and explaining can be regularly integrated in afterschool learning content in ways that contribute to a youth’s school and career success.  Because of the fact that many youth participating in afterschool programs are traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, these programs hold great promise for increasing the amount of interdisciplinary hands-on, inquiry-based learning that leads to college readiness and the possibility of STEM careers.

It is important to note that because of afterschool’s ongoing STEM strategy and the number of organizations dedicated to the effort, this field has valuable lessons to share. For example, drawing from program evaluations conducted by Donner and Wang (2013)1, the following recommendations for building effective STEM afterschool programs could well advise in-school STEM strategy as well.  Recommendations for success mentioned in their recent article, “Shifting Expectations,” include:  1) Emphasis on a co-inquiry and ‘facilitated’ approach to teaching and learning, 2) Appropriate and high quality curriculum, 3) Ongoing, outcomes-based professional development, 4) Sustained, consistent and intense student participation (more than one hour per week), and 5) Partnerships with similar entities (all hands on deck approach) that can help support and extend the effort.

For additional information about the afterschool STEM movement as well as the article mentioned, check out NIOST’s (National Institute On Out-Of-School Time) Spring 2013 issue of Afterschool Matters that focuses on STEM.  Topics include: 
·         Models for afterschool STEM
·         Measuring and scaling success
·         Types of programs offered by various organization types
·         Improving the experiences of the children and training for facilitators
·         STEM and girls
·         Implementing STEM resources from Public Television

Through innovative afterschool programs, the momentum for enhancing STEM learning is growing. Although some of the same barriers for building engaging STEM experiences exist in the regular classrooms today, it is exciting to see the afterschool and informal science field take responsibility for delivering hands-on and memorable science experiences, as well as collecting evidence of what is working. 

As for my grandchildren, at the end of the day they confidently reported on the origin of sea shells and rain forest habitat. Science CAN BE memorable.

1  Shifting Expectations:  Bringing STEM to Scale through Expanded Learning Systems (NIOST-Spring 2013 Afterschool Matters)