STEM-ming up success: North Dakota State School Superintendent visits Lincoln Elementary School's STEM Day
Dickinson students dive into School-Wide Day of Learning in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education fun.
DICKINSON — North Dakota State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler watched as Lincoln Elementary students engaged in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities during the school’s STEM Day Jan. 27. From “squishy circuits” to building and virtual reality stations, every student was fully immersed in STEM Friday morning.
Lincoln Elementary School partnered with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation and others last fall to install their first high-tech STEM laboratory in North Dakota. The school has since established weekly STEM rotations in every classroom. Friday’s schoolwide STEM day was the second held since the STEM program was implemented. Baesler and Marisa Riesinger, DPS elementary library media specialist, spoke during an informational session held during the event.
“STEM matters,” Riesinger said. “We know that there is a STEM gap. And it's scary and it's dangerous because it does cause income disparities, skilled labor shortages and decreasing economic growth. An international study shows that the median range of income is $40,000 for non STEM professions, but internationally for a STEM job is $85,000. So looking at that disparity, and when we think about that, we think what do we want our kids to have? We want them to be successful adults, but not only successful adults, but we know they're going to be part of our community. So the stronger we can make our kids, the stronger we make our communities as well.”
Many from the community volunteered for the event including Dickinson State University athletics, Dickinson High School cheer team, DHS science club, and DHS students. Southwest Art Gallery and Science Center and Edutech also partnered with DPS to create STEM stations. In addition, Marathon presented Dickinson Public Schools a $15,000 grant for the library media program to purchase ozobots – small robots designed as an introduction to coding – to use across the district. Baesler said she was amazed by the event, agreeing that STEM is a necessary component in school curriculums.
“We've been offering incentives, but unfortunately only 41% of North Dakota's high schools have access to or provide access to a computer science or cybersecurity course,” Baesler said. “Only 38% of our students are attending one of those high schools that have access to a computer science or cybersecurity course. When you talk about computer science and cybersecurity, the number of those students enrolled in those courses is even lower because they haven't had an opportunity to be in an elementary school like Lincoln, where they're able to see themselves doing that. And we know from brain development that right about third grade is when young people have this self identification of what they want to do or what they're good at. And if they haven't seen a career or been exposed to an opportunity to be good at that or to experience that – that job opportunity, that career is lost to them forever.”
She expressed gratitude that her granddaughters are a part of DPS.
“Dickinson is really, really fortunate to have leaders like this,” she said. “To have community members like this. I will also say from the statewide vantage point, Dickinson is a leader in education in K-12 education. You have an amazing superintendent, a superintendent that supports this type of work. And you have a strong school board that supports their superintendent in supporting this type of work. So you are very, very fortunate.”