Applications recently opened for the Manufacturing and Engineering Externship Program (MEEP). Through a summer cohort experience, teachers accepted into MEEP will complete paid summer externships with local companies in STEM industries. Then, they’ll create a new problem-based learning unit based on what they learned to implement with their students.
To understand what the program is like for educators, we reached out to two program alums, Kristy Lubiejewski and Yolanda Sholl from Toledo Public Schools, who detailed their experiences and how the program helped them build a special prairie learning area for students in collaboration with the Toledo Zoo.
Both Kristy and Yolanda teach middle school students at Marshall STEMM Academy. Kristy teaches 7th and 8th grade Math. Her partner in MEEP, Yolanda, teaches 7th and 8th grade Science and Career Technology Education.
What appealed to you about the MEEP program? Why did you apply?
Kristy: My partner and I have always been trying to incorporate careers and job skills into our 8th grade classes. The high schools provide real world training in certain programs, and we wanted our students to be knowledgeable and prepared in these areas. We had done some work with a manufacturing company and realized how much more we can learn and grow in this area.
Yolanda: We were recognized by ODE as a STEMM school last year and MEEP was recommended to the staff. When I looked more into the program, I realized it was something that I was interested in and would help me give my students more possibilities for their future.
What did you like about the summer PBL course?
My favorite part was meeting with experts from manufacturing companies and learning about the skills they were looking forward in their employees. This gave us great inspiration for our classroom. Also, learning about the specific cycle of manufacturing was helpful to relate to our design process.
Where were you placed for your externship? What did you do there?
SSOE Group in Toledo, a global project delivery firm for architecture, engineering, and construction management. Due to COVID, most of the employees were working from home. We were able to sit and talk with people in charge of specific departments and what their responsibilities are.
What was most surprising or beneficial about the externship?
Learning that SSOE Group is willing to work with kids in high school to start recruiting for post- graduation jobs that don’t require college. Soft skills like collaboration and communication are a high priority to them which are skills we focus on in the classroom.
Tell us about the PBL unit you created for your class – what was the driving question, and were you able to implement it with students this year?
Our driving question was: “How can we design our prairie so that the plants and flowers will create maximum results?”
At Marshall STEMM Academy, we are establishing a prairie through the Toledo Zoo. A prairie is a small, densely planted garden of native flowers and grasses. A diverse selection of prairie plants will attract pollinators, birds, and other wildlife year round. Grass, Milkweed, Coneflowers, Rudbeckia and other flowers will make an eye-catching display that is beneficial to your local ecosystem. In this PBL, 8th grade students will design a prairie with a variety of plants and flowers. They will research soil and plant characteristics that will create maximum benefits and what types of plants and flowers need to be in the design.
Additionally, we have created a partnership to help incorporate literacy skills into the project. With the assistance of a local manufacturing company, students are creating storywalk boards to mount along the pathway in our prairie. The school will be able to place story pages inside the boards that the community can read and learn from through their visit to our prairie garden.
What advice would you give to other teachers who are considering applying to the MEEP program?
It’s definitely worth the time to get students a broader perspective about what their future opportunities could be if they feel college is not in the path. Engage your students in your experience. Let them know about your visit and let them see how school actually does relate to your life outside of it.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your experience?
For those who struggle with creating a meaningful STEM experience in your classroom, this program is a great way to help guide you through the process and help you develop the confidence to create STEM in your classroom.