The fields of science technology engineering and math, also known as STEM, are getting much attention as employers look for qualified candidates in those fields of study.
One program prepares young students to go into science related fields like a coach would train an athlete, starting at an early age.
Students at Hoover High School recently gathered after school for a science experiment. Teacher Christopher Sellers asked students, “What in your body uses iron?”
It wasn’t a science class or extra credit. Junior Michael Hardat explained what they were doing. He said, “Here in Iowa we’re trying to increase iron and zinc levels in corn.”
The group is Hoover High School’s Science Bound. Thirty students meet every Monday. Mr. Sellers says, “They’re smart kids doing science more than what they need to be doing in the classroom. And the whole purpose is to help them maintain their focus in being successful in high school.”
Iowa State University started Science Bound in 1990. The program is now in Des Moines, Denison and Marshalltown public schools. 378 students currently participate. Teachers identify talented science and math students in middle school. ISU Science Bound Director Connie Hargrave says, “The Science Bound program is to help students from underrepresented ethnic minority groups to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
Science Bound is a commitment. The students meet once a week after school and visit Iowa State 3 to 4 times a year. Hargrave says, “Students and their families make a five year commitment from 8th grade through high school.”
The students must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA, attend 75% of the activities and participate in career exploration programs over the summer. Hargrave says, “We talk about champions are made in the off season, so that in the summer when maybe other people are relaxing, they’re continuing to develop their skills and expertise.”
Science Bound graduates can go on to study a STEM related field at Iowa State University tuition free. Local corporations like DuPont Pioneer support the program. Vice President of Policy and Outreach Susan Bunz says, “We need young kids who understand what the need is, who understand the science it takes and the innovation it takes to find solutions to those problems.”
Problems the students are experimenting with in the lab, as they prepare for a career in the real world. Hardat says, “Right now, we’re not in college, but we want to have real world experience. So, when we get to college we’re ready to go.”
The Science Bound program will get more support in the coming years. DuPont Pioneer announced a $400,000 gift for the program over the next five years.