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Nonprofit again donates STEM tools to Nevada schools

For the third time in two years, a nonprofit has announced its partnership with the Clark County School District.

STEM Academy, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM, education to meet future workforce needs, first announced its donation of STEM resources to the school district in March 2016.

Clark County School District Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky said at the time that “this gift will move Nevada middle schools toward the new Nevada.”

But nothing materialized in Nevada schools.

STEM Academy, also known as STEM 101, announced its donation again in February, but still nothing happened.

As the Review-Journal previously reported, personnel moves at the school district amid the preparation for the rollout of the reorganization largely delayed any action.

Russell Mickelson, CEO of STEM Academy Inc., met with the school district Friday and told the Review-Journal on Monday that he’s confident STEM Academy resources will be put to good use.

“CCSD leadership will seek approval of STEM 101 curriculum for use within the district at the next board meeting,” Mickelson said in an email.

Jesse Welsh, the school district’s assistant superintendent of the instructional design and professional learning division, said the district will write a memorandum of understanding and get the STEM Academy tools into schools as soon as it can.

Mickelson met with Welsh on Friday after three previous meetings with the school district, one with Skorkowsky and two with interim figures.

STEM Academy offers online teacher resources and student learning activities. The STEM Academy platform guides teachers and students through hands-on activities, such as learning about design and math to build an electric guitar or launch aerodynamic straw rockets.

Nevada is also the second state, after Utah, in which STEM Academy is introducing something called Corporate Connections.

Mickelson and his team have spent nearly a year — and counting — working with 11 local employers to create videos with corresponding projects for middle school students.

Companies, including Tesla and Bank of Nevada, worked with STEM Academy to create virtual tours of their sites, which include interviews with people at different levels in the company who talk about what they do and what type of skills and education their roles require.

The videos come with a five-day company project for students to complete.

In 2016, Mickelson announced that the nonprofit had given Nevada middle schools free access to STEM Academy’s online STEM curriculum, its corporate connections program, professional development and its consulting services. Nevada is the first state to which the nonprofit donated its entire platform for free, originally for a three-year term.

As soon as the partnership between STEM Academy and the school district is formalized, Welsh said, the district will work with individual schools to alert them of the new resources and their use.

“We’ll make it available to all (middle) schools,” Welsh said. “Because it’s a supplement, it will really be up to those teachers whether they want to use it,”

He hopes to see the corporate connections supplement in middle schools by November, he said.

“It will really help our students to see what some of the careers are out there in Nevada and get them excited about those opportunities.”

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

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