Infusing STEM-based Programming, Naturally

Jester Park Nature Center will be leading the way in STEM-based learning opportunities for youth. The Jester Park Nature Center will be the gateway to both the outdoors and to STEM-based programming initiatives.   

What is STEM?
A concept that infuses four specific disciplines into a curriculum that fully engages and educates participants in:

Science - the study of the nature of the universe 
Technology - applying information to the design of goods and services   
Engineering - application of knowledge for the benefit of humanity
Mathematics - the universal language of nature

The STEM-based learning program provides students with an innovative, problem solving, and discovery-based environment that focuses on application outside of the classroom. Utilizing this learning model engages students in authentic, real-world problems through the infusion of technology and applicable curriculum. Education opportunities at the Jester Park Nature Center will follow this model of learning and will provide an environment in which STEM-based programming will naturally permeate into each visit.

Cultivating a curiosity of the world around us starts at a young age

Providing exposure to STEM through public nature centers is important for engaging early interest in students. The U.S. has become a global leader not simply by what we know, but also through what we can do with what we know. The Jester Park Nature Center will incorporate this concept with the goal to regain Iowa's legacy as a leader in both education and the workforce. STEM has been proven to provide a vital economic advantage for quality jobs in our state, and graduates that leave their schooling with full STEM concept integration are in great demand to meet current and projected workforce needs
Habitat walk through the Chichaqua prairie

Polk County Conservation Naturalists have been intuitively infusing STEM-based practices into their popular programs and field trips in our county parks for years. Habitat discoveries, insect safaris, and outdoor skills classes are a few examples of the opportunities available through PCC programming which contribute to community, place and discovery-based learning environments in which the student may grow. The Jester Park Nature Center will expand upon what Naturalists already offer by providing a structured place to go both explore the natural world and also return to the classroom to utilize the skills and concepts acquired. 

New STEM-based programming possibilities with the Jester Park Nature Center include:
  • extended ecology and biology studies for Kindergarten through college level 
  • Teacher externships
  • Numerous community based project learning opportunities such as native pollinator projects, water quality workshops, invasive species mapping and green living programming
  • STEM-based summer nature camps
  • STEM-based nature focused Pre-K partnerships
Classroom concept for the Jester Park Nature Center

The envisioned STEM classroom at the Jester Park Nature Center will be one that allows for creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking skills. This will allow Environmental Education staff to bring the outdoors inside for in-depth study and to be open to adaptation as technology evolves. 

“[Science] is more than a school subject, or the periodic table, or the properties of waves. It is an approach to the world, a critical way to understand and explore and engage with the world, and then have the capacity to change that world..."
 President Barack Obama, March 23, 2015

"Preliminary research on successful STEM schools indicates that cultivating partnerships with industry, higher education, non-profits, nature centers, and research centers is important for engaging students in STEM learning through internships, mentorships, interdisciplinary project-based learning, and early college experiences."

 Maureen Griffin and Eric Hall (Des Moines Hoover High School)


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