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Annual STEM event focuses on K-12 education

Olivia Exstrum, Assistant Campus Editor

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The Northwestern Office of STEM Education Partnerships hosted its sixth annual statewide STEM Summit on Wednesday, highlighting the importance of K-12 STEM education.

The summit featured a keynote speaker, panel discussions and workshops centered around K-12 science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, commonly referred to as STEM. It was attended by about 260 educators and administrators from across the country, as well as representatives from companies including Google and Motorola Solutions Inc.

“The day is really designed to showcase STEM education across Chicago,” said Amy Pratt, associate director of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships. “We had teachers, people from the University, people from the industry and people from education nonprofits all come together today to talk about what’s happening in Chicago in STEM education.”

Pratt said this year’s event was particularly focused on “inquiry and research opportunities” for high school and middle school students. She said the keynote speaker, SESP Prof. Brian Reiser, talked about new K-12 science standards and their implementation. In addition, a panel of high school students discussed their participation in research projects related to STEM education.

Kemi Jona, Office of STEM Education Partnerships director, said STEM education is becoming increasingly important in Chicago.

“At least here in Chicago, STEM education has really come to the forefront as the critical part of building a world-class workforce,” Jona said. “Companies are really interested in it because they know they want to continue to grow and expand. We need to have students who want to continue on into college into careers in that area.”

Jona said the office was started in 2006 and works with a network of more than 200 schools and 600 teachers in the Chicago area. He said it is also focused on creating relationships with STEM-related organizations, such as museums, aquariums and zoos.

“The office has the mission of bringing the resources of NU to the K-12 community,” Jona said. “The summit was really an opportunity for us to convene that community here at NU … and really help kind of catalyze the conversation around STEM education and help move it forward.”

Jona emphasized making STEM education accessible to all students.

“A big push now is to get a more diverse audience into STEM, including women and minorities who typically don’t pursue these fields,” he said. “A way to do that is to get STEM education more exciting for kids in classrooms.”

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