Boeing grant takes Puget Sound-area STEM education program to new heights

July 21, 2015 in Our Commitment

A $500,000 Boeing grant aims to help the Washington Informal Science Education (WISE) Consortium resolve a growing concern surrounding science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, education in Washington state.

The money will go toward supporting a STEM learning initiative pioneered by WISE to advance the interest, motivation and achievement of low-income students. Boeing announced the grant to support expansion of the program at a recent WISE event, where more than 200 students and their parents gathered to share their research projects and insights from more than a year of investigation and learning.

A recent study shows the STEM-based struggle within Washington state, which ranks first among all 50 states in STEM jobs but 42nd in on-time high school graduation rates. To help boost those rates, the consortium is developing and implementing a comprehensive four-year program to engage and inspire students and teachers by providing them with access to authentic STEM resources and experts.

Students share their original, yearlong scientific research projects with fellow students, teachers, families, STEM professionals and guests during a Washington Informal Science Education event at Mt. Rainier High School in Des Moines, Wash.

“We at Boeing envision a future in which all students have access to high-quality, real-world learning opportunities so that they can develop their skills, pursue their dreams and build a better world,” said Bill McSherry, vice president of state and local government and Global Corporate Citizenship at Commercial Airplanes. “We want students in our community to learn the skills they need to capture the opportunities Boeing and other leading companies are creating.”

The WISE model combines strong partnerships with school districts that link classroom learning with out-of-school enrichment opportunities, according to program leaders. The students begin their work with a field trip where they learn about the science and engineering practices they’ll use to design and execute their own STEM research projects throughout the year. Their projects focus on improving the quality of life in their communities.

“I absolutely hated science before this year,” said Sophie Bergstrom, a fifth-grader. “But after the WISE project I want to be a life scientist because it is so much fun. I love WISE.”

The WISE Consortium includes leading informal science education institutions in Washington state, including the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, IslandWood, the Museum of Flight, Pacific Science Center, the Seattle Aquarium and the Woodland Park Zoo.

“By integrating yearlong informal and formal learning experiences for our underserved youth, we predict this unique STEM education program will positively impact students’ interest, academic performance and their pursuit of STEM technical and professional careers,” said Sally Goetz Shuler, WISE Consortium executive director. “Long term, we believe this program will result in our students being better prepared to contribute to our economy and the quality of life in their communities.”

A Boeing grant aims to give students throughout Washington state easier access to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs.