Opening doors for rural students
In 2015, high school math teacher Janie Kimble knew she wanted to expose her students in rural Nevada to STEM career opportunities but was not sure where to begin.
She had heard about the Joint Science and Technology Institute (JSTI) and hoped she would be selected as a participant, knowing that it would be a good starting place. Sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, JSTI is a two-week, fully-funded, residential STEM research program for current high school students and teachers in the United States and Department of Defense schools around the world.
The JSTI program offers hands-on exposure to real-world science and math. Kimble was in the first group of teachers to be selected from across the country and left the training inspired to bring similar hands-on STEM learning opportunities to her small town of Carlin, Nev.
“I knew we had to do something here to show our students the opportunities that are available to them outside of our area,” Kimble remembers. The Carlin STEM Club began that year for their junior high and high school students, meeting once a week.
It was such a success that Kimble and the school’s science teacher decided to push forward. “With one year of STEM club under our belts, we approached our administrator about having a specific STEM class in our science department,” Kimble says.
The class was approved and designed so that students were presented with a problem to solve, allowing them freedom to think critically through trial and collaboration. The class proved to be hugely successful, and interest among students and staff began to grow.
The administration approved additional classes for the 2017-2018 school year, totaling three high school STEM-based classes and one junior high STEM exploratory class—all in which students learn through real world scenarios.
Class activities range from cardboard boat races to ecology projects and robotics programming. Teachers also encourage students to attend regional math and science competitions and connect with local industries.
Kimble believes that JSTI played a large part in her school’s path to STEM education, and she wants to give back. She has served two summers as a resident teacher in the program, encouraging other teachers who are exploring STEM educational opportunities. She has also encouraged her students to apply for the JSTI program and several have been accepted.
“STEM education has done wonders for our school,” says Kimble. “We have seen student engagement soar in the classroom and have heard from other teachers that work habits and engagement are changing in their classrooms, as well.”