Via a robust teacher professional development and retraining model, community engagement conversations, and the design and development of culturally relevant and holistic educational programs that are both scalable and transportable, this project's goal is to design the national rural STEM education model. Teachers and schools in this in this project commit to a minimum of three years of intensive retraining. They will participate in comprehensive summer STEM based professional development, have access to on-going and continuous support throughout the academic year, and utilize robust resources provided by the state of South Dakota for the purposes of broad scalable implementation.
The PAST Foundation is partnering with Sanford Health, the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative (South Dakota), and the American Indian Institute for Innovation (AIII) to improve STEM education in South Dakota, through the development and expansion of an innovative, culturally relevant, trans-disciplinary approach to teaching and learning. Building on the education transformation model, now underway in the South Dakota Innovation Lab Schools, the team plans to grow the model throughout the region. The intent of this partnership is to enhance rural and Native American students' motivation and cognition, as well as ensuring a mastery of 21st Century Skills that will impact students and teachers in rural settings, supporting education transformation that leads to STEM literacies, college readiness, career decisions, and community engagement.
Building on the existing pilot program to transform 4 South Dakota, rural, school districts to Trans-disciplinary Problem-Based Learning (T-PBL), The PAST Foundation and its partners Sanford Health, Mid-Central Co-Op and AIII, will launch an aggressive program of teacher professional development reaching out to four additional public school districts and eight Native American schools in the 2012-2013 academic year.
July 2012 Teachers from 4 Native American Schools begin STEM T-PBL summer professional development
Aug 2012 Teachers from the 4 original South Dakota Innovation Lab Schools begin year 2 of STEM T-PBL summer professional development
Sept 2012 The teachers will return to their respective schools with a T-PBL implementation strategy that is aligned to National Common Core Standards and mapped out to grade level learning for the academic year. Ongoing on the ground support begins - each school has site visits and in-school Professional Development (PD) twice a month through the academic year.
Oct 2012 RFP released soliciting 4 new Native American schools to join the program.
Dec 2012 Additional (minimum of 4) Native American Schools are added to the program and initial training begins.
Jan-May 2013 Continuous on the ground PD at all schools, additional topic specific workshops throughout the spring
June 2013 Summer PD for all participating school - week long intensive sessions to prep for the 2012/2013 academic year
The program is designed to engage teachers in a continuous process that supports the transformation throughout the school year both on the ground and virtually. A key outcome of this process is that these schools become STEM T-PBL self-sustaining and a model for other rural schools once the transformation is complete. The state of South Dakota has planned for this to be a five to seven year process that will scale the South Dakota Innovation Lab Schools across the state. Throughout the course of the project, as new districts and schools are added to the program and teachers become proficient in STEM T-PBL, the innovative use of technology will provide the platform to create the 21st century rural, schoolhouse. By 2017, this innovative program will have transformed K-12 schools in South Dakota and launched a new, collaborative rural and Native American STEM school model that can be shared with the nation.
In preparing for 21st century skills, rural youth are among the most disadvantaged. Geographic isolation, socio-economic variables and a notable lack of educational resources set the stage for limited exposure to STEM fields as viable career pathways for native youth. A 2003 USDA report stated that students from rural areas are less likely to attend high school, attend college or attain a college degree. These numbers are even more devastating for Native American populations within the same states (USDA, Urban/Suburban and Rural Communities, 2006). Add to this trend, minimal access to educational programs geared toward developing interest and educational achievement in STEM fields, and it is clear why rural America is quickly falling behind in meaningful student participation among 21st century careers. Yet, educational attainment falls well below national averages, and even the lowest performing urban areas, despite the fact that a number of rural states are experiencing significant demand and need for skilled labor in STEM disciplines.
The PAST Foundation's initial work in STEM-based rural education transformation impacts students and teachers in some of South Dakota's most rural areas. South Dakota ranks first among low-populated states in the nation with 76.9% of its schools located in rural communities (Rural Policy Matter, 2010). Rural is further defined, designating counties with less than 7 people per square mile as 'Frontier.' Seventeen South Dakota schools, representing a quarter of the state's student population, are located in Frontier counties. Surrounding states share South Dakota's and Native American Reservation's population and educational dilemmas, experiencing an unacceptable lack of educational attainment across the region. Without dramatic action, these children will be left out of the educational transition to STEM-based learning.
The PAST SDIL model is now ready to scale and can be applied in a wide array of rural environments. The SDIL team is well versed in creating culturally relevant programs that will allow for community integration of STEM in many areas with broad business and industry partners.
The PAST SDIL model offers a wide array of strategic conversations that help communities refocus teaching and learning to utilize the systems and engineering approach to design. These include offering robust teacher professional development, design and implementation tools, teacher and student bridge programs, and cohort based support for schools and communities in transition.