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STEM education hub created in East County


A newly created East County science and technology educational “hub” recently received $124,882 in state funds to work toward improving science education in the area.

The hubs are intended to leverage and build on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) assets that already exist in the community, rather than creating new programs.

The hubs already exist in other areas in Oregon.

STEM hubs focus on teachers learning the best practices for STEM instruction, increasing hands-on learning experiences for students both in and out of school as well as student awareness of STEM employment opportunities.

“This is the culmination of work of about 60 individuals and organizations,” said Mark Wreath, dean of applied technologies and high school services at Mt. Hood Community College.

Wreath noted the East Multnomah County hub also will focus on serving adults in the area who could benefit from STEM education for their jobs.

“Our focus is much broader than the K-12 education piece. But also we want to engage adults in the community too,” Wreath said.

Partners in the newly formed hub include Mt. Hood Community College, the Reynolds School District, David Douglas School District, the city of Gresham, Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce, MHCC Small Business Development Center, Microchip Technology Inc., Techolicy, LLC, iUrban Teen, Impact Northwest and Home Forward.

The initial grant money will be used to hire a hub director, which Wreath said will happen by the end of March. The hub office will be at Mt. Hood college.

The STEM hub was funded by the Oregon Chief Education Office and covers parts of Multnomah and Clackamas counties.

“The real importance of this grant,” Wreath said, “is that we become eligible for programming grants from the state.”

The funds are designed to increase access to hands-on learning that connects students with future career opportunities. They are also supposed to improve math and science achievement and increase the number of STEM degrees and certificates students earn after high school.

The hubs identify both STEM needs and assets that already exist in the East Multnomah County area.

The Portland Metro STEM hub, which has operated for several years, gathered statistics that show STEM education is lagging in Oregon.The National Assessment of Educational Progress scores reveal that only 37 percent and 33 percent of Oregon’s fourth and eighth grade students, respectively, test at or above the proficient level in math. Similarly, only 34 percent of fourth grade students and 35 percent of Oregon eighth grade students test at or above the proficient level in science.

The award amount is preliminary and expected to be finalized in the next few weeks, the grant announcement said.