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Growing STEM learning across the Big Sky - Montana STEM Summit

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Growing STEM learning across the Big Sky - Montana STEM Summit

By Nora Gibbons, Engagement Coordinator for the Montana Afterschool Alliance.

On the afternoon of April 13 at a convention center in downtown Helena, Montana, kids, families, and community members could be seen playing with a variety of robots, holding pieces of the moon in their hands, or learning to change their car’s oil via a VR headset. This year the Montana STEM Summit returned to an in-person format with more than 50 different diverse stakeholder groups convening in Montana’s capital for a full day of learning, exploring, and discussing STEM.

The day began with a workshop designed for afterschool providers and educators. Facilitated by the National Girls Collaborative Project, participants focused on how to incorporate role models into programming to inspire underrepresented youth to engage with STEM opportunities. As one of the most geographically spread-out states, the opportunity for providers and educators from across the state to connect and share about their experiences and resources was invaluable.

The providers were joined in the next session of the day by industry professionals, business leaders, policymakers, and other key stakeholders. After hearing an update on nationwide STEM learning trends from the Afterschool Alliance, participants engaged in discussion around local successes as well as challenges and barriers to the accessibility of STEM education. Everyone left with concrete ideas and connections to continue exploring or implementing.

The work session was followed by an open house, which featured 20 different programs from across the state. As students, parents, providers, and community members mingled with programs and explored the activities they offered, programs also connected with each other and learned of ways they could collaborate to amplify their offerings.

The evening concluded in celebration with a student showcase highlighting the voices of Montana students who shared their stories of STEM learning and how it has impacted their lives. From a high school senior who received a scholarship to continue her passion for STEM in college to an elementary schooler showing a live demonstration of his favorite science experiment, the student showcase made it clear that opportunities to engage with STEM are helping Montana’s youth to find their confidence, their voices, and their passions. After a day of discussing the work still needed to grow and expand STEM learning opportunities, the student showcase left STEM Summit participants reinvigorated and reminded about the important reasons of why this work must be done.

To learn more about the event check out this news clip or the reports from previous summits.

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