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Schools, businesses partner to enrich student learning

Last Tuesday, business leaders from 43 companies and organizations gathered with educators at Biogen in RTP for the annual STEM and Global Studies World Café, presented by WakeEd Partnership and the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS). The room was overflowing with more than 150 people engaged in the design of project plans for classroom and school-wide engagement in STEM and global studies.

STEM and global studies are more than just trends. With the increase in technology and globalization, there is a great need for students to be more educated in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as well as have a better understanding of global issues, relationships, and impact. In the Triangle, there are many science and engineering companies that are committed to ensuring students are ready to be the next generation of leaders in STEM.

WakeEd coordinated with WCPSS to bring schools and businesses, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and local universities to develop programs to enrich and enliven academic and co-curricular programs in Wake County. To brainstorm potential projects, each participating school was matched with two businesses and had one-on-one time with each to explore ideas and create both short and long-term action plans. After the event, WakeEd and WCPSS will continue working with participants to encourage actualization of the plans.

This was the fourth year of World Café, and the largest yet. Steve Parrott, the president of WakeEd Partnership said, “World Café has grown more and more each year with new schools and businesses wanting to be part of the event. That is a testament to the willingness of the business community to get involved and the innovation of our educators in Wake County Public School System. The collaboration that starts at World Café is taking student learning to an entirely new level.”

STEM and global studies professionals who participate in World Café discover strategies for meaningful connections that directly impact students and school programs. “The dedication, forward thought process and enthusiasm emanating from the educators involved at World Café inspires me to help the young people they teach in any way I possibly can. The idea of applying practical business experiences to their educational process is genius in its simplest form,” said John Hummel, general manager of Sinclair Broadcasting and WakeEd board member.

“Participating in World Café was an excellent investment of our time, so much so we’ve already signed up for next year’s. Connecting with local schools and discovering ways in which we could support the staff and students was both exciting and rewarding,” added Elaine Loyack of Delta Dental of North Carolina.

At World Café, businesses looking to invest time and resources in STEM education joined with educators to match financial and in-kind resources with learning. The Virtual Reality Learning Experience met with East Wake Middle School and Wake STEM Early College High School. Co-founder Mike McArdle said, “We had a blast meeting our two chosen schools and discussing the ways we can incorporate virtual reality into their curricula and school plans.”

The partnerships forged between schools and businesses at World Café enrich student learning for years. “Community engagement is one of the key objectives of our strategic plan approved last year. By collaborating with WakeEd on the World Café, we will start meaningful relationships with new businesses and expand established business partnerships in nearly one-third of our schools,” said WCPSS superintendent Dr. James Merrill. “These relationships can help build student achievement and increase community partnerships throughout Wake County.”

Alisa Herr

Alisa Herr is the former chief technical officer of EducationNC.