Using Partnerships to Inspire StudentsIn my experience as an educator for the past 25 years, I have found that opening up the doors of the classroom to expand learning opportunities and inspire students is a strategy that can be accomplished through partnerships with corporations and the community. These partnerships can also provide students who are unsure of a career path the first-hand knowledge of what a career is like and what skills and academic courses they need to be successful in that field.
When I began my position as Superintendent of the Burlington Township School District (BTSD) in July, 2014, I initiated a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). One of the reasons I emphasized STEM was the data from multiple sources, such as the US Department of Education, indicated there will be an increase in job opportunities in STEM-related fields. Biomedical engineering, in particular, seems to be a growing field, according to the US Department of Labor. In the paragraphs below, I will discuss some of the partnerships that I, along with my Leadership Team, forged with corporations and the community.
Solvay, a global leader in the utilization of chemistry for products from consumer goods to energy, sends a team of chemists and engineers every year to conduct hands-on experiments in chemistry with our fourth grade students. This partnership has provided our students with opportunities to work alongside top researchers while exploring various scientific principles.
Lockheed Martin sponsors STEM education outreach programs. Students in our Advanced Placement Physics Class recently held a program at Burlington Township High School (BTHS), which included a visit from a Lockheed Martin software engineer. The software engineer demonstrated the engineering principles involved in various careers, including video game design. The engineer then spent time working with our high school robotics team. We also send high school students to Lockheed Martin’s campus through the Minorities in Engineering Program (MEP). Lockheed Martin offers many K-12 Programs to encourage students to enter a STEM career.
Inviting your community members into your schools to speak about careers is another great way to extend learning opportunities for your students. This year, we have had several presentations, including an alumnus currently enrolled in The College of New Jersey, a parent who is an electrical engineer demonstrating 3-D printing, another parent who works with underwater robotics at Princeton University and a project engineer from Kraft Foods.In other school districts where I have been superintendent, I have had the opportunity to form partnerships with different corporations. Exxon/Mobil provided research scientists to visit the school district twice a year to conduct hands-on science projects with our students. Exxon/Mobil also provided a fully-funded trip to the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy in New Orleans for five of our science teachers. Another partnership we fostered was with Shoprite and their Young Consumer Program. This program taught our fifth graders how to utilize their math skills through the use of a budget and price comparisons with a culminating project involving a trip to the local ShopRite.