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October 27, 2014
EOU photo by Dillon Starr / An educator participating in the STEM Fair listens as Brad Nelson, of Skip-Line®, Inc., explains one of the products made by the company for highway construction equipment.
LA GRANDE, Ore. (EOU) – Area educators learned more about careers utilizing science, technology, engineering and math during an event at Eastern Oregon University Oct. 16.
Two programs, EOU’s GO-STEM Hub and the EO Stem Grant, partnered to bring K-12 teachers from Baker, Malheur, Union and Wallowa counties together for a day of hands-on presentations from professionals working in the region.
Everything from agriculture to veterinary medicine and wildlife biology, chemistry, computer science and electrical engineering – even acupuncture – are considered STEM careers and were represented at the fair in the Gilbert Center.
“It’s really about encouraging teachers to think outside the box in relation to STEM,” said Donna Rainboth, assistant professor of education at EOU.
Rainboth and Katie Butterfiled, GO-STEM Hub facilitator, believe this goal was met in addition to providing a structure for educators to make connections with professionals and bring examples of diverse careers into their classrooms.
“Many of the educators saw how STEM applies to jobs they had never thought of before, so it was a big ‘aha!’ moment for them,” Butterfield said. “They were also surprised by how many people there are in the community who are willing and excited to be promoting STEM education.”
Acupuncture, for example, may not top the list of recognizable STEM careers, but Leah Michel, of Pin and Tonics Acupuncture and Herbs in Baker City, explained how a background in biochemistry helped when she was completing her master’s in oriental medicine.
“Kids often have a preconceived notion that they won’t be good at science, so it’s great to see educators wanting to break that cycle and help them discover their passion and go for the moon,” Michel said.
Agriculture and veterinary medicine are two fields more widely represented in the region. Dr. Katrina Hartman from the Vale Vet Clinic talked to teachers about the changing demographics she’s seeing in her profession.
“There is a big shift in what women are doing, particularly with large animal medicine. The field is really opening up,” said Hartman, who specializes in both small and large animal care.
Ontario teachers Patty Eastwood and Juanita Davila are planning to invite professionals like Hartman to visit their students at May Roberts and Alameda elementary schools.
“Seeing the STEM components of veterinary medicine, including ratios and math applications, being used in daily life will help open their eyes to it as a career path,” Eastwood said.
Another participant, Annette Moeller, a sixth-grade teacher from Wallowa, learned more about the operation of Butterfield Farms in Joseph.
“This provides real-life connections for my students when they ask, ‘how is this going to help me?’ and correlates to when they may take over a farm themselves,” Moeller said.
Where electrical and computer engineering are concerned, Brad Nelson, of Skip-Line®, Inc. had a lot to share. Headquartered in La Grande, the company makes electronics for highway construction equipment.
“Most of what we do relies on middle and high school level math,” Nelson explained, “but we also apply advanced math in a way that makes sense. We can get students excited by showing them what we do.”
Nelson, who grew up in North Powder, also emphasized looking locally for STEM career opportunities. “There are high-tech jobs right here in Union County.”
The GO-STEM Hub is already planning another fair that will serve Umatilla and Morrow counties. For more information visit www.go-stem.org or call Butterfield at 541-962-3012.
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