PEERS Program Gets Students Involved in Real World Opportunities

AMES, Iowa – Iowa State University Extension and Outreach has long been deeply involved in science technology education. Another example of this involvement is the Governor's STEM Initiative Scale-Up Grant Program PEERS: Partnership for Engineering Educational Resources for Schools.

PEERS is a business-based program divided into four implementation levels for students: exposure, experience, mentoring and potential employment and is partnered with the Pella Corporation. PEERS was one of the programs chosen for the 2012-2013 Governor’s Science, Technology, Education and Math (STEM) initiative. Annette Brown, a 4-H program specialist with ISU Extension and Outreach, implements the program in Boone, Hardin, Marshall and Story counties. “Funding from this Governor's STEM Initiative Scale-Up program offered us opportunities to expand youth programming, so we took advantage of it,” said Brown.

PEERS is tailored to increasing student’s awareness and interest in engineering and technology. One aspect of the program gets students involved in site visits to science and engineering facilities, giving students the opportunities to witness science, engineering and technology at work. “It’s hard for young people to see themselves in a career without seeing the actual role,” said Jay Staker, director for 4-H STEM. “PEERS lets them see the opportunities that are out there.” Brown’s students visited the Air National Guard in Des Moines, toured the Biomass Energy Conversion Facility in Nevada, and participated in a wind turbine workshop. Science related food and healthy living day camps are being offered in June.

PEERS is a partnership with Iowa 4-H STEM, the ISU Extension and Outreach program that focuses on engaging youth in science, technology, engineering and math. “The main purpose of STEM education is to increase youth’s awareness and aspirations in these careers that make a difference,” said Staker. Involved in many aspects of 4-H, STEM also provides resources and opportunities for students. Programs like PEERS are what makes STEM an effective, valuable piece of Iowa 4-H.

Brown explained that surveys of the students involved in PEERS showed their interest levels in engineering, science, math and technology as a field of study and a career path have risen because of PEERS.

According to Lynne Campbell, STEM network manager at Iowa State University, “The PEERS model is a great way to build future public/private partnerships.  We look forward to working with other businesses to develop additional STEM opportunites for our youth.”