Eastern Oregon University > Press > STEM education reaches rural families

STEM education reaches rural families

STEM education reaches rural families

EOU Football Team Preparing STEM Kits

March 29, 2022 LA GRANDE, Ore. – On a Saturday morning in March, two dozen Eastern Oregon University student-athletes packed 2,300 STEM education kits for public school fourth graders in Eastern Oregon. 

The kits, organized by the Greater Oregon STEM (GO STEM) Hub housed at EOU, will reach young learners in seven rural counties across Eastern Oregon. Funds from Amazon Web Services InCommunities covered the $46,000 project. 

“Amazon believes in making investments to support communities where our employees live and work,” said Cornelia Robinson, Global Leader of Inclusion & Outreach for AWS. “We are pleased to be able to support GO STEM in this important effort to help inspire students across eastern Oregon to explore STEM topics through these kits. We hope these students and their families benefit from this effort.” 

The Greater Oregon STEM Hub’s Executive Director David Melville said the group surpassed last year’s distribution by over 300 kits. GO STEM is fully grant-funded and housed at EOU. The students’ 56 hours of service packing the kits combined with university-supported grant administration, storage capacity and shipping services. At the end of the day, eight pallets were loaded with educational materials ready to be picked up by education service districts for distribution to schools. 

“Geographically, we are the largest of Oregon’s 13 STEM Hubs,” Melville said. “We cover almost a third of the state in square miles. It’s a lot harder to spread resources that far as we  serve the population across our large rural region. It’s a huge undertaking, but so worth the effort!”

The kits, purchased at a discount from PITSCO Education, include hands-on projects that guide kids through science, technology, engineering and math activities. Sodexo, EOU’s on-campus food service provider, donated healthy snacks to go in each kit. Additionally, all necessary materials are included, as are swag items from AWS and GO STEM.

“There’s a shift in fourth grade. Students start exploring their interests, and if they’re interested in STEM topics or careers they can start to read about that for themselves,” Melville said. “It’s an important time especially for underserved students to bridge the divide for gender, ethnicity and income inequality.”

GO STEM offers a wide range of opportunities for families to become involved in STEM education, Melville said. The hub has it all, from teacher professional development opportunities, to high school leadership programming, to middle school clubs, to a packed lending library of materials and resources. 

“We’ve got so much that educators can borrow. We have Lego Robotics, entire ready to use STEM units, consumables, and even early learning kits that we share with preschool providers across the region that prepare kids for careers in natural resources, healthcare, engineering and coding,” Melville said. “We’re pushing these careers as STEM avenues for students in preK through 12, as well as providing support as students enter the workforce.”

His team also works with career and technical education coordinators that provide YouScience aptitude tests for high school students, and STEM Hubs across the state have access to Oregon Connections, which connects classrooms to actual STEM professionals. GO STEM has also secured funding to start Eastern Oregon Works, a pilot internship program for high school students in Wallowa, Harney, and Union counties through collaboration with the Eastern Oregon Workforce Board, Wallowa ESD, and High Desert Partnership, as well as participating schools.

For more information about this or other GO STEM Hub projects, contact go-stem@eou.edu and visit go-stem.org.