Linda Kekelis, Linda Kekelis Consulting asked Lisa Blank, Watertown City School District

PostedFriday, February 12, 2016 at 6:15 PM

Hi Lisa, do you have resources and strategies to share for bringing engineering to students in rural communities?
I read about the STEM Fort Drum RISE Summer camp from last summer and wondered if you had engineering curriculum to share via LinkEngineering. In your bio you describe your passion for wanting to make STEM accessible and I'd love to hear some of your strategies for recruiting and retaining these youth in your programs.

BTW,I love your photos and biography, which are inviting and a great example for others on the LinkEngineering website.
2 Answers
  • Lisa Blank , Watertown City School District
    Posted Tuesday, March 22, 2016 at 10:25 AM
    If you are interested in resources for rural education, check out .  
    I am no longer connected with that project, but it is a DoDEA funded project for 6 small, rural districts in Northern NY.  These schools are implementing a mix of Project Lead the Way and UTeach Engieneering (a,k.a. Engineer Your World) from UT Austin and are experiencing great success.
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  • Lisa Blank , Watertown City School District
    Posted Sunday, February 14, 2016 at 6:28 PM
    Hi Linda,
    Thank you for your supportive comments!  They mean a great deal to me.  I strive to spread enthusiasm for engineering related programming.  I've seen the enthusiasm this programming can bring to K-12 students.  They become so engaged and absorbed in their experiences that they don't even realize the powerful learning that is taking place.  
    The STEM summer camps have been a terrific way to instill enthusiasm for STEM and engineering in students.  Another member of this exchange, Mary Margaret Small, Ed.D. of the Office of Educational Partnerships at Clarkson University has been a tremendous partner in these efforts.  She gathers current Clarkson students from the region to serve as camp counselors and those students develop activities for students.  This provides students the opportunity to meet and talk with current students in engineering programs, making it more likely that students perceive such a pathway as a real possibility for themselves.  Partnership with local workforce development has also supported the camp effort by assisting with career exploration activities, including field trips.
    In general, partnership and collaboration have been essential to the success of regional STEM efforts.  Schools in my region struggle with funding in many cases to even provide state mandates, so a group of educators with support of Syracuse University, got together to develop ideas and write a proposal for a DoDEA STEM grant.  We are fortunate to be eligible for this funding source due to proximity to Fort Drum.  I don't know if most people think of grant-writing as a "fight," but it certainly has felt like we've had to fight to bring opportunities to our students and we're very grateful for what DoDEA has made possible.
    The collaborative efforts continue with partnerships with many additional organizations including SUNY Jefferson (a local community college), regional businesses, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.  We've learned that our efforts reach much further when we join forces!
    Most recently, several districts in the region have been working with the University of Texas- Austin in bringing Engineer Your World programming to schools via NSF grant funding.  The student and teacher response to this programming has been very positive.
    I have recently changed roles and now serve Watertown City School District as its Director of STEM Programs.  While this is a city district, the needs are much the same, and even in many ways greater, than those of the small, rural districts.  We are all in a relatively isolated region of Upstate NY, where students lack opportunities for rich exposure to career options.  
    I am working with other educators in the region to establish a professional learning community for engineering technologies instructors.  The inaugural meeting will be held on February 29th, with the purpose of bringing together educators, workforce development, higher education, and business to work together to best meet the needs of our students and region.
    I really appreciate your efforts in developing the Link Engineering Educator Exchange.  I look forward to supporting its growth and will be sharing information about the site at the Engineering Technologies Educators meeting on the 29th.
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