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Conference Proceeding

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Business, industry, parks, nature settings, government infrastructure, and people, can be invaluable resources for connecting STEM curriculum within context which results in conditions ideal for promoting purposeful learning of authentic STEM content. Thus, community-based STEM resources offer ideal context for teaching STEM content. A benefit of focusing teacher attention on these contextual, content aligned resources is that they are in every community; making place-based STEM education a possibility, regardless of the location of STEM teaching and learning. Further, associating STEM teaching and learning with local resources addresses workforce development and the STEM pipeline by exposing students to STEM careers and applications in their local communities.

The desire to align STEM teaching and learning with local STEM related resources guided the design of our week-long integrated STEM K-12 teacher professional development (PD) program, i-STEM. We have completed four years of our i-STEM PD program and have made place-based STEM a major emphasis of our curriculum. This report focuses on the data collected in the fourth year of our program. Our week-long i-STEM PD served over 425 educators last summer (2013), providing them with in depth theme-based integrated STEM short courses which were limited to an average of 15 participants and whole group plenary sessions focused around placedbased integrated STEM, inquiry, engineering design, standards and practices of Common Core and 21st Century skills. This state wide PD was distributed in five Idaho community colleges and took place over two weeks.

The STEM short courses included topics on engineering for sustainability, using engineering to spark interest in STEM, municipal water systems, health, agriculture, food safety, mining, forestry, energy, and others. Integral to these short courses were field trips designed to connect the K-12 educators to the resources in their local communities that could be leveraged for teaching integrated STEM and provide a relevant context for teaching STEM content. Workplace presentations made by place-based STEM experts and provided teachers field trips to place-base STEM industries and business such as manufacturing plants, waste water treatment systems, mines, nature parks, food processing plants, research, hospitals, and laboratory facilities.

We researched the 425 participants’ conceptions of place-based STEM prior to and after their taking part in the summer institutes, which included fieldtrips. Our findings revealed substantial increase in our participants’ knowledge, interest, and plans to use place-based resources for teaching integrated STEM. We detail the data analysis and provide a theoretical foundation and justification for the importance of place-based STEM to address the STEM pipeline for the future workforce.

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This document was originally published in Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition by American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Copyright restrictions may apply.