School of Education Alumna Fossey uses STEM organization to close learning gaps, promote curiosity

03/14/16

Kim Fossey graduated from the School of Education (SOE) in 1993 and has been making strides in education and technology ever since.

After serving as the Education Technology instructor and manager of office for Education Technology Services at SOE, several years of teaching Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education in Dallas, Texas, and launching the Texas STEM Initiative, Fossey returned to Louisiana to foster growth in the state’s STEM industry.

She launched STEMup in 2013 with the help of the Foundation for East Baton Rouge School System (FEBRSS).  Together, Fossey and members of the foundation engaged a cross-sector team of community members with representatives from both academic and corporate entities to design a model that would increase STEM identity in students.  The collaboration resulted in a successful model for delivering high-impact and project-based STEM lessons to middle schools using STEM professionals as mentors.

Louisiana Women in Technology (LaWIT), an organization comprised of women dedicated to STEM fields and advancing female STEM employment opportunities, partners with STEMup to host events such as IT Girls 3.0, a recent function at East Baton Rouge Middle School.

The goal in hosting female-only events is to provide a thoughtful space and time to expose girls to rich role models and empowering real-world STEM projects, Fossey said.

Data shows that even when females demonstrate academic ability in math and science, many still don't pursue a career in STEM.  Through exposure to role models in meaningful projects, Fossey said STEMup hopes to increase curiosity in STEM issues and build the confidence it takes to pursue a STEM career pathway.

“It’s never too early to promote curiosity, creativity and problem-solving skills, or to dispel stereotypes,” Fossey said.

At events like IT Girls 3.0, girls engage in meaningful tasks that integrate the use of STEM skills, such as design process, collaboration, use of technology or critical thinking, to solve a STEM challenge. Students gain awareness of the range of careers and a better sense of the value of a STEM as a career. Throughout each lesson, role models are encouraged to enhance the girls’ experience by providing real-life examples of their own potential journeys.

“Just like we have seen that early intervention in math, reading and language pays off, developing a STEM mindset early on could pay off as well,” Fossey said. “All of a sudden, girls are having deep discussions about preventing the flu, or improving water quality, or preparing foods for space travel.”

Closing the STEM learning opportunity gap and contributing to a larger STEM ecosystem of organizations are the two largest long-term benefits from organizations like STEMup and LaWIT, Fossey said.

“Both [organizations] represent public efforts to fundamentally increase access to STEM education and careers specifically for underrepresented youth,” Fossey said. “We believe that if we can increase the number of STEM professionals interacting with students through meaningful hands-on projects and events, we will build a larger and more diverse workforce for our region and state.”

About SOE
The LSU School of Education (SOE) offers graduate and undergraduate programs in Curriculum and Instruction and in Educational Leadership, Research, and Counseling. The School’s mission is to prepare P-12 educational professionals to be leaders, practitioners and scholars knowledgeable in contemporary educational issues.

Visit the School of Education at lsu.edu/education

About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education (CHSE) is a nationally accredited division of Louisiana State University. The College is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Library and Information Science, the School of Social Work, and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer 8 undergraduate degree programs and 18 graduate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 977 graduate students. The College is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research, and service and is continually working to improve its programs.

Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education at chse.lsu.edu.