The Middle School STEM Academy was started as a pilot in the summer of 2018. Twelve 6th grade completers from New Town, ND attended the four-day Academy on the VCSU campus, participating in a wide range of STEM activities and projects. In June 2019 the original cohort of students returned for year #2 of the Academy, while two new cohorts of students (from New Town and from Eight Mile School District in Trenton, ND) were brought in for the year #1 experience.
Academic topics included biology, chemistry, fisheries and wildlife science, kinesiology and human performance, astronomy, mathematics, engineering design, robotics, and computer coding, with an emphasis on the “21st-century skills” of communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.
Also included were field trips to the Red River Valley Zoo in Fargo and VCSU’s Prairie Waters Education and Research Center in Kathryn for the younger cohort. The older group visited North Dakota State University, Doosan Bobcat and Microsoft in Fargo, along with the Sheyenne Valley Area Career and Technology Center in Valley City and the Dakota College at Bottineau nursing program suite on the VCSU campus.
Leading the academy were Great Plains STEM Education Center personnel Jamie Wirth, Ph.D., director, and Gary Ketterling, Ph.D., education coordinator.
“This year’s STEM Academy was a huge success,” said Wirth. “The students were immersed in a wide variety of engaging STEM academic content and career exploration opportunities. The evaluations completed by the students indicated that they very much enjoyed the experience and wish to come back again next year.”
Going forward, the academy plans to add two new cohorts each year, while inviting members of each of the previous year’s cohorts back through their high school careers if possible.
The VCSU Middle School STEM Academy receives financial support from New Town Public Schools, Microsoft, North Dakota United, and Valley City State University. ND United documented the 2019 STEM Academy in the news feature video below.