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Northwestern, ETHS Formalize Ties

New partnership to focus on STEM education, University/high school collaboration

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May 24, 2012 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- A new full-time position based at Evanston Township High School (ETHS) and funded by Northwestern University will formalize and strengthen the relationship between the University and the high school. It is part of Northwestern President Morton Schapiro’s Good Neighbor, Great University Initiative.  

Come September, Kristen Perkins -- who works in Northwestern’s Office of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Partnerships -- will serve as the Northwestern/ETHS partnership coordinator. The new position is designed to increase collaboration between Northwestern and the high school and enhance ETHS learning opportunities.

“Kristen will pair the creative and intellectual resources of Northwestern with the interests and needs of the high school’s impassioned teachers and students, creating mutually beneficial connections in everything from science to the arts,” President Schapiro said. 

Whether arranging field trips for ETHS students to Northwestern’s cutting-edge science laboratories or tours of the backstage workings of the University’s extraordinary theatre offerings, the Northwestern/ETHS partnership coordinator will facilitate connections.

The University/ETHS coordinator also will support ETHS teachers in science, mathematics, and career and technology education that pique the interests of ETHS students in STEM subjects.

“Kristen will have the time to help busy teachers look ahead at their curricula and find exciting, interactive activities that enhance their students’ science and math understanding,” Kemi Jona said. Jona is director of the University’s Office of STEM Education Partnerships (OSEP) and research professor in Northwestern’s School of Education and Social Policy.

“The Northwestern and ETHS partnership will provide our high school students with cutting-edge learning experiences in academics, research and career exploration,” ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon said. “Combining our resources, we’ll be able to accelerate programming and advanced learning and offer STEM opportunities rarely available to high school students anywhere.”

Improving STEM education and attracting more students to technical fields have become integral to local, state and national efforts in preparing young people for the 21st-century workforce. STEM encompasses a range of fields including the sciences, mathematics, engineering and computational thinking as well as design, manufacturing and robotics.  

The new position ”represents a powerful way for Northwestern to partner with ETHS to promote the concept of STEM learning for every student and improve STEM-related instruction,” said Shelley Gates, ETHS chair of career and technical education. 

The position will expand student educational opportunities and support the school’s goal of producing STEM literate graduates, added Peter Bavis, ETHS associate principal of teaching and learning. 

STEM-related efforts between Northwestern and ETHS already are under way. YouSTEM, a new after-school program at the high school made possible through a MacArthur Foundation grant to Northwestern, for example, aims to attract girls, minorities and students who have shown little interest in STEM subjects. 

YouSTEM reflects the mutual benefit that Northwestern and ETHS get by working together. The after-school program is expected to make STEM education exciting to students who might otherwise avoid it. And it will answer questions Northwestern researchers ask: What entices reluctant STEM learners to show up for a program? What kinds of activities engage them? What do they learn from them?

“The new position will make ETHS’s successes become Northwestern’s successes and vice versa,” said Jona. “Our researchers stand to learn every bit as much as the high school students for whom these programs are designed.”

The partnership puts STEM education at ETHS at the forefront of Northwestern’s efforts and allows ETHS students to be the first to benefit from innovations coming out of the University’s research. And it will streamline the process of finding the right Northwestern resource to fulfill certain high school needs.  

“Quite simply, our partnership will make collaborations between the high school and University infinitely more efficient,” Jona said. “And -- when that happens -- ETHS students, the University and Evanston win.”

Topics: University, Neighborhood