New STEM Council Project Announced

Students at a computer
Computer Science is Elementary is a new project from the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council that will launch six innovative computer science elementary schools.

The Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council recently announced a new project to launch six innovative computer science elementary schools. The six high-poverty schools will be competitively selected to transform existing buildings with engaging computer science instruction. This will create more opportunity for their students, including real-life work experiences with area employers. It also will establish a network of computer science expertise as a resource for all public and non-public elementary schools across the state.

Loess Hills Computer Science Elementary School in Sioux City is the inspiration for the Computer Science is Elementary project. The district pioneered one of the first computer science elementary schools in the nation in 2015 when Loess Hills started teaching computational thinking and other skills, such as problem solving and teamwork. Loess Hills will serve as a blueprint for the project, which aligns with the Future Ready Iowa initiative to prepare more Iowans for rewarding, high-demand jobs.

Gary Scholten, executive vice president and chief digital and information officer at Principal Financial Group, is leading corporate engagement and support for the project. The campaign is working to raise $450,000 from the private sector by December 2018: $50,000 one-time planning grants for each of the six schools; $50,000 for Loess Hills Computer Programming School to serve as a blueprint; and $100,000 for a project manager. Once the six schools are launched, they will operate with regular school funding like Loess Hills Computer Programming School in Sioux City.

The Computer Science is Elementary Advisory Group will begin designing the criteria to select public and nonpublic elementary school awardees. In January 2019, the STEM Council will issue requests for proposals and will announce the awards in spring 2019.

The Computer Science is Elementary project will enhance other work to expand computer science, including a $1 million fund passed by the legislature to prepare Iowa’s computer science teacher workforce. This follows a new state law encouraging elementary, middle and high schools to offer high-quality computer science instruction, and the State Board of Education recently adopting statewide voluntary computer science standards.

For more information, please contact Carrie Rankin, Managing Director, Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, at Rankin@IowaSTEM.gov or 319-273-2757.