Kummer Center for STEM Education
The Kummer Center for STEM Education mission is to engage teachers and student to increase STEM proficiency and raise awareness of STEM careers thought MIssouri, with special attention to creating equity and inclusion for underrepresented student STEM related fields.
Teacher Education and Certification, Missouri University of Science and Technology
Profile submitted by Courtney Jones
Vision and Goals
The Kummer Center for STEM Education will be Missouri's leading resource for innovation in PK-12 STEM education. By focusing on high quality student experiences and teacher training, the Center will widen the pipeline of diverse STEM educators and professionals in Missouri. These individuals will inspire the next generation of teachers and employees in STEM fields, which will ultimately have a sustainable impact on communities in the future.
The Kummer Center for STEM Education (referred to as the "Center" for the rest of this write up) resides within the academic Department of Teacher Education and Certification at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T or S&T). As denoted by the name, the Kummer Center for STEM Education is also a part of the newly established Kummer Institute and maintains this relationship through a dotted line reporting structure to the Vice Chancellor of Strategic Initiatives and Chief Operating Officer of the Kummer Institute. The Center provides equal educational access and opportunity to underserved, underrepresented, and rural communities in Missouri by connecting internal institutional resources with external community members and K12 schools. To achieve this work, the Center is operated by an administrative team of four, all of which are FTE staff members. Team member positional titles are: Director of the Kummer Center for STEM, Lead Grant Writer/Coordinator, and Senior Student Support Specialist.
The Director is to lead and coordinate K-12 outreach initiatives that leverage Missouri University of Science & Technology (S&T) expertise to improve educational experiences for students and instructional experiences for teachers in school districts. The Director will also lead and coordinate efforts on S&T's campus to improve learning and teaching experiences in STEM disciplines. The Director manages activities on and off campus with various stakeholders including educators, community partners, and university partners.
The two Senior Student Support Specialists manage the K12 activities (e.g., field trips, summer camps, day camps) by collaborating with organizations and education systems, coordinating everything from marketing and online communications and registration to facility reservations and catering. They interface with students, parents, and teachers, as well as coordinate college student tutors and administrative employees, who serve in various capacities for the office. These SSSSs also collaborate with and coordinate several state and national K12 organizations, who host their youth conferences and competitions on the Missouri S&T campus.
The Grant Writer/Coordinator position coordinates and oversees the grant application and management process including identifying potential new funding sources, developing funding resources for existing and proposed programs and/or services, writing grant proposals, developing budgets, and collaborating with various education entities, internally and externally. The Grant Writer/Coordinator also manages projects such as collaborating with K12 school districts on events such as facilitating meetings, field trips, summer experiences, in addition to other activities related to awarded grants. The position is responsible for collecting data, completing post-award reports, and programs evaluation of external grants.
Are there advantages of being structured this way?
Operating within both an academic department and an endowed institute offers many advantages. The first of which pertains to an ease of collaboration across Missouri S&T departments, both academic and student affairs. The second advantage is the creativity which abounds from a diversity of lenses. And, the third is a palpable campus investment in the Center outreach efforts.
Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
Balancing the expectations and priorities of two different worlds must always factor into our decision model.
Funding for the Kummer Center for STEM Education is secured by way of a diversified portfolio. The Center came into existence through a generous endowment by Fred and June Kummer, which also established the Kummer Institute. The Center's key priorities, since its inception, are to provide high quality teacher professional development in STEM content areas and develop an inventory of resources and experiences aimed to inspire student engagement and awareness of STEM-related careers. Resources and experiences include summer camps, a mobile STEM lab, STEM field trips to S&T's campus for PK12 students, after-school programs, such as content focused tutoring, research experiences for teachers and students, and community outreach events in collaboration with area schools. Some of these programs are supported by the fee for service model, such as summer camps, where families pay tuition to send their students. Other programs, such as PK12 STEM field trips are supported by institutional resources, such as the Kummer endowment. Many new research-oriented programs, such as a summer research experience for Missouri students and teachers, are supported through grants secured by the Center.
How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
The funding structure of the Kummer Center for STEM Education influences the educational programming available to our undergraduate students in a variety of ways. Given that most of the Center funding is secured through earmarked allocations, such as grants and institute dollars, offerings for undergraduate students are limited to those that can win allocations. While most undergraduate programs are intentional, this added layer of approval means programs must be designed before a budget is in hand then adhered to and precisely measured for the duration of each funding cycle. This also prioritizes outreach; meaning undergraduates are program partners, taking on roles such as tutors and mentors.
What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
The advantage of a diversified funding portfolio is how this diversification translates to greater program variety and expanded opportunities for access across a larger audience. The need to secure funding for programs allows the Center a tremendous amount of control in not only the vision for our initiatives but the resultant suite of offerings.
What are the challenges?
Given that the installation of most new program offerings relies on securing external funding, such as federal or state grants, there are a couple challenges. The first being that many governmental or other grants come with stipulations and controls that must be implemented to receive funds; therefore, potentially re-shaping the final program or offering. The second being that a program will not come to fruition if the grant proposal is unsuccessful; meaning either the removal of the potential program or an extension of the original implementation timeframe.
Has this funding structure has changed over time?
The STEM Center has only been in existence since 2021, meaning our funding structure is currently being built so there is no normal structure but constant change.
Description of Programming
After School Tutoring Center- The Center's founding director was previously a Missouri principal and teacher, so she brought with her an intimate knowledge that was also identified by community outreach that tutoring services were gravely lacking in the area. Not only was the Center able to provide top notch college tutors, they were provided at no cost to families and were offered in-person and via virtual instruction.
STEM Field Trips- One way that the Center feeds the pipeline to S&T is through the recruitment and coordination of K12 school field trips to the S&T campus. The Center's director meets with the region's school administration and then her team collaborates with S&T faculty, providing the logistics management for schools to request a no-cost field trip to campus, where they are treated to a day of fun, hands-on learning. These students learn they can become a part of these exciting careers, take part in interesting educational projects, and live entirely different lives than many of them have ever experienced because of STEM.
Faculty have been asked to do increasingly more recruiting with the downturn in student registrations and retention, while also taking on more administrative tasks, with the cuts to staff in higher education. Because they have much less time, recruitment efforts have dwindled because of the time it takes to communicate with all of the school systems and specific educators at each school, the time to either travel to a regional school or coordinate a field trip to campus, not to mention coordinating with other faculty. The Center has stepped up to coordinate each field trip with multiple faculty members, making sure that each trip is full of interactive, educational and inspirational activities that showcase STEM education and highlight potential STEM career paths - all faculty have to do now is accept a meeting request, prepare their demonstration, and then meet the kids on the day of their field trip - we take care of the rest.
Successes and Impacts
Small, rural school systems, like those served by the Kummer Center for STEM Education, do not have a significant student population or revenue from property taxes to fund field trips that require extra financial burden on either the student or the school - even for something as basic as lunch. Approximately 15.74% of households residing within the community surrounding Missouri S&T are facing poverty. The median income for area households is $44,150. For a household of four, an income of 150% the poverty level corresponds to $49,025; this amount is $4,875 more than the average household income and $10,000 more than the median teacher salary for area schools. What the Center offers local K-12 students is an exciting day, full of discovery and hands-on learning fun that does not put a financial strain on any party and offers access to foundational STEM concepts. Each semester the Center hosts one to two field trips per week for students 1st through 12th grade. Each field trip brings anywhere between 20 to 100 students to campus from area schools. This translates to roughly 720 students per semester for a total of 1,440 K-12 students on-campus each year. Meaning 1,440 rural elementary and secondary students each year are experiencing a world of firsts: first visits to a college campus, first connection between concepts they are learning in their home classrooms to higher level STEM applications, first interaction with a college faculty member and college students, and first consideration of a STEM career.
Evaluation and Assessment
How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation?
Given the newness of our center, program assessment and overall evaluation methods are currently under construction. However, our assessment measures will align with our mission and priorities, which are the following:
The Kummer Center for STEM Education Mission Statement: The Center will provide diverse STEM learning experiences to PK-12 students on S&T's campus and at their schools through collaborative partnerships with school districts and S&T faculty, staff, and students.
The Kummer Center for STEM Education Priorities: Resources and experiences will include summer camps, a mobile STEM lab, field trips, after-school programs, teacher conferences and workshops, research experiences for teachers and students, and community outreach events. The Center's flexible space in designed for interactivity and collaboration in support of these mission-centered activities.
Elements Contributing to Success
The Center has been foundational in establishing connections across campus and the community, building bridges and establishing services that bring together the best promises of STEM in our K12 students and melding them with our STEM-focused college students and faculty, who are in the perfect position to inspire, educate and instill an interest in STEM education and future career in these young minds. Through a rich and diversified fundraising effort, the Center is able to offer many critical services for free in underserved areas where STEM has not been a resource-rich subject academic area. The Center's director has taken a position of collaborator with each school system, working to find resources and strategies that make a difference in the lives of students and student outcomes, not simply applying a single solution over every school with the same broad stroke. Serving the community means serving K12 students, their parents, area school teachers and administrators, the Missouri S&T faculty, as well as our campus community as a whole.