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Partnerships propel St. Kate’s STEM initiative to next level

L to R: Senior VP Colleen Hegranes, Center Executive Director Tony Murphy, 3M Foundation's Barbara Kaufmann and VP for External Relations Marjorie Mathison Hance.
L to R: Senior VP Colleen Hegranes, Center Executive Director Tony Murphy, 3M Foundation's Barbara Kaufmann and VP for External Relations Marjorie Mathison Hance.
Photo by Julie Michener.

The National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University has secured operating capital from three foundational partners— 3M Foundation, Boston Scientific and the Medtronic Foundation — to continue to transform the teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics at the elementary level.

3M Foundation continues STEM investment

Barbara Kaufmann, Manager of Education Giving at 3M, presented a check for a quarter of a million dollars Aug. 4, 2011 to the National Center for STEM Elementary Education at St. Catherine University. The Center was launched in August of 2010 and Tony Murphy, Ph.D., associate dean of education, was named its executive director.  Education Professor Lori Maxfield, Ph.D., was appointed associate dean. 

STEM at St. Kate's

It was 3M Foundation’s initial $240,000 multi-year grant that underwrote then-education faculty member Murphy’s 2004 proposal for an interdisciplinary STEM curriculum. Murphy’s vision to develop a STEM minor for undergraduate students has grown into a multi-faceted academic initiative.

Faculty and staff across six academic departments — education, chemistry, biology, mathematics/physics, Montessori and psychology ­— have collaborated to create a team-teaching model of STEM curricula recognized for its innovation by the Minnesota Board of Teaching.

They have created an undergraduate STEM minor (five courses), an undergraduate STEM certificate (three courses) and STEM graduate certificate programs for in-service teachers at traditional and Montessori schools.

St. Catherine University requires all elementary education majors to complete the STEM certificate for initial licensure. Graduates with the STEM certificate report that this credential has been a key factor in securing teaching positions.

The National Center for STEM Elementary Education consults and creates custom STEM training programs for in-service teachers at schools and school districts across the country and continues to partner with the U.S. government’s international environmental initiative, the Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) program to develop curriculum. 

Boston Scientific develops long-term STEM partnership

Boston Scientific’s initial grant of $100,000 in operating support will help the National Center for STEM Elementary Education achieve its goals to create competent and confident STEM-certified elementary teachers, which research shows is a key component in student learning. 

Boston Scientific is also partnering with the STEM Center on several other initiatives, including developing a summer research experience for a pre-service and in-service teacher team, and bringing together the STEM Center and specific elementary schools for professional development.

“In order to improve competencies and aspirations in math and science, it is vital to reach students in their elementary school years,” said Marilee Grant, director of community relations at Boston Scientific. “We believe the National Center for STEM Elementary Education will help teachers spark student interest, excitement, knowledge and skills at a time that is important to their future growth and development.

“By providing the opportunity for educators to learn new skills and utilize new tools and resources, teachers will be better prepared to inspire and engage students in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Medtronic Foundation supports STEM scholars

The Medtronic Foundation has made an additional $50,000 grant to underwrite scholarships for in-service teachers to become STEM-certified by the National Center for STEM Elementary Education.

Medtronic previously provided key support to fund scholarships for St. Kate’s undergraduates to take the STEM Minor and helped the University develop the first—and only— STEM graduate certificate for Montessori teachers in the country.

The first 11 STEM-certified Montessori teachers who graduated in April came to the program from across Minnesota—from La Crescent to Owatonna to St. Paul’s J.J. Hill Public Montessori School.

“The program provides the tools to do exploration and experimentation,” said La Crescent Montessori Academy teacher Tami Holtslander. She credited the STEM certificate program and the impact it has had on students and teachers for the school receiving a $20,0000 grant from Project Lead the Way. The La Crescent school will also move to a larger building for fall 2011.

Russ Dunn-Foster, who leads a Montessori classroom inside Owatonna’s Washington Elementary School, credited the STEM certificate program for a jump in enrollment.

“I used to have to really urge parents to enroll their kids in my classroom,” he said. “This year, I have 67 registered for the 2011-12 year just by word of mouth. We’re expanding to two classrooms next year!”

More about STEM at St. Kate’s

In addition to the National Center for STEM Elementary Education, St. Kate’s has a rich history in the sciences and offers a broad range of science degrees that offer opportunities for collaborative research, self-directed learning and accomplished faculty mentors.

More information on STEM majors can be found at the University’s School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences.  

STEM Education Video 

STEM Center Video

Support from the National Science Foundation

Aug. 4, 2011 by Julie Michener

See also: Education, Leadership, STEM, Students