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SALT LAKE CITY — Almost 700 educators, administrators and industry officials gathered at the Utah Valley Convention Center for the third annual STEM Best Practices Conference.
Dina Wise, a principal at Bruin Point Elementary, traveled from Carbon County to attend. “I’m the administrator at a rural school. My student population is 110 with an 80 percent poverty rate,” Wise said.
Wise brought three of her teachers to the conference to explore how STEM could be integrated at the school. "My students don’t get exposed to a lot of things," she said. "A lot of my students don’t have technology in their home."
Others at the conference were like Wise, exploring STEM and how it could be implemented at the school. The conference included five tracks: student engagement, leadership/mentoring, hands-on learning, cross-curricular connections and technology integration.
Joseph South, the keynote speaker, is the former director of the office of educational technology in the U.S. Department of Education. South told a story of a student from the coal mining areas of West Virginia and how with the support of teachers and STEM curriculum discovered a star.
That story resonated with Wise who lives in the coal-mining area of Carbon County. “Coal mining and the gas industry are going down," Wise said. "Where are my students going to get jobs? If it’s not in the technical field, where will they go?”
Tami Goetz, director of the Utah STEM Action Center, the host of the conference, said that she “wants to figure out how to integrate industry more in conferences like this.” Connecting industry to education is one of the goals of the Utah STEM Action Center, to bring opportunities into rural areas like Carbon County.
“In our community, they need things to keep them here,” Wise said of her students and community in the Carbon School District.
Creekside Elementary near Bruin Point presented about creating a STEM culture, training teachers and supporting a culture of risk-taking and curiosity. That theme was echoed during the conference; that to prepare students for college and career requires them to think differently and ask questions.
Goetz said that they will continue to provide these STEM educational opportunities and hope to get more educators involved in other areas of the state saying, “there’s definitely an appetite for it.”
For more information about upcoming STEM events see the Utah STEM Action Center's calendar.