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Delaware Partners With Discovery Education, DuPont for STEM

With a contribution from DuPont, the state will use Discovery Education’s digital learning platform to build an interest in science, technology, engineering and math careers that are in high demand.

The Delaware Department of Education has partnered with the educational software company Discovery Education and chemical company DuPont to provide K-12 teachers with an array of digital learning resources designed for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) lessons. According to a recent news release, the initiative aims to use Discovery Education’s K-12 learning platform to nurture student interests in STEM-related careers.

Luke Rhine, the department’s director of career and technical education and STEM initiatives, said educational content from the Discovery Education platform will help teachers supplement career and technical education curricula across the state. He said the partnership builds upon the Delaware Pathways initiative to give high school students relevant skills and connections for jobs in fields such as information technology, computer science, chemistry and engineering.

“Connecting what is being taught in the classroom to Delaware employers is critical,” he said. “The resources provided through this partnership will support middle school and high school teachers as they build bridges between classrooms and careers for all students.”

Rhine said the Pathways initiative serves about 55 percent of the state’s students in grades 9-12 through skill-building courses and lessons that emphasize “identity development,” to help them see themselves as future STEM professionals. The initiative also encourages teachers to integrate other kinds of educational resources and practices into their classrooms.

“We’re helping young people in middle schools see themselves as part of their community, part of their school and in a future occupation — particularly a STEM occupation,” Rhine said, noting that the Discovery Education platform’s content aligns with curriculum standards.

According to Discovery Education’s Senior VP of Teaching and Learning Karen Beerer, DuPont provided $1.5 million in funding to help the state expand use of Discovery Education’s digital learning platform, and to advance the development of new content related to careers at companies like DuPont.

In addition, she said, the partnership will support professional development training for teachers to learn how to integrate the content into course lessons.

“There’s up-to-date, relevant and engaging resources teachers can use in their classrooms with their students to help them meet those competencies,” she said. “We will start providing on-demand professional learning for teachers — how to use the resources, where the resources live and how to integrate it into Pathways programs.”

DuPont is a member of Discovery Education’s STEM Careers Coalition, a group of science-driven companies advocating for better, universally accessible K-12 STEM education. According to Discovery Education, the coalition places a focus on female and non-white student populations underrepresented in science and tech fields.

“As a company like DuPont and many companies like ours, STEM education is so critical for the next generation of our workforce to develop, and not just from a STEM pipeline perspective but from a diverse STEM pipeline perspective,” DuPont’s Global Leader of Community Impact Pat McCrummen told Government Technology.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure kids are exposed to STEM and get excited about STEM,” he added.

Rhine said Delaware officials hope the platform will add to ongoing state efforts to feed students into the STEM talent pipeline, which will help produce qualified applicants for jobs at companies like DuPont.

“If we look at the labor market, it is anticipated that more than 30 percent of [Delaware’s] existing workforce will exit in the next eight years. That includes people retiring, as well as new job growth,” he said. “Most of those jobs we’re going to see require some type of credential beyond high school … It starts by focusing on what skills and expectations are in that industry.”

Rhine is optimistic the partnership will help reverse troubling labor trends, based on results in a handful of schools already familiar with the platform.

“In the last month or so, we’ve seen an uptick of about 20 percent, in terms of student participation rates,” he said. “We are early in the rollout of this work, so to see those upticks initially is only going to create a snowball’s momentum.”

The Delaware partnership is among several others between state departments of education and private industry that have emerged during the pandemic, as schools continue to embrace new digital learning tools.

Earlier this year, Discovery Education launched a similar three-year partnership with Mississippi’s Vicksburg Warren School District to build upon schools’ STEM lessons with its digital learning platform. The company also granted K-12 educators free web access to its STEM Careers Coalition and Ignite My Future in School content, featuring hundreds of interactive multimedia activities designed to sharpen K-12 students’ problem-solving skills and keep them interested in STEM-related topics.
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.