In South Carolina, 19% of students reside in rural communities of less than 10,000 residents. Youth in rural communities are more likely to lack some of the resources and opportunities of their counterparts in urban areas, yet today’s workforce demands that students and employees have a strong grounding in STEM. While rural communities face challenges, much can be done to narrow the opportunity gaps in STEM for students in these areas.
Dreams Imagination Gifts (DIG), founded in 2013, and now a partnering organization of South Carolina’s Coalition for Mathematics & Science (SCCMS), is working to create a model for STEM education in out-of-school time for students in rural communities to narrow the gap by providing after-school enrichment programs, summer enrichment camps, STEM festivals, and mentorship programs. DIG is looking to connect the dots between real-life application and STEM education while fulfilling the workforce development need for critical thinking, problem-solving, basic soft skills, and technological literacy. DIG’s model is designed to spark students’ imagination through exciting STEM learning experiences and resources to prepare students for the 21st century workforce. DIG challenges students, community leaders, parents, school districts, business industry, and other non-profit organizations to DIG deep and be fearless in overcoming barriers to advancing student achievement within and beyond the classroom. Here are some ideas to get you started:
Think outside of the box. Students who reside in rural communities are natural innovators as a product of their environment. Because of their lack of resources, they are forced to use what they have to get what they need. Structure rigorous learning experiences that require students to design innovative solutions to challenging, authentic problems within and beyond their community.
Guide and encourage students to tackle all fears in STEM courses as they prepare for college and careers.
Collaborate with students and their parents in setting STEM learning goals incorporating student abilities and interests and identifying resources (tutoring, mentoring, counseling, financial resources) to support students in achieving their goals.
Bridge the gap between rural school districts and business/industry to boost economic development in small rural communities. Seek to build reciprocal relationships inviting input on the knowledge and skills needed for a well-prepared workforce and incorporate the ideas gained into the school’s curriculum design. Cultivate partnerships to acquire and allocate resources to support student STEM success (mentoring, tutoring, counseling, co-teaching, financial support for scholarships, facilities, technology, resource acquisition, grants, teacher incentives).
You may have heard the phrase that educators, youth leaders, and parents often use that states, “The world is filled with doors of opportunity.” With their work in rural communities, DIG suggests a different perspective of that phrase and endeavor to show students of rural communities that a door of opportunity exists, making students aware that even within an environment of limited resources, a path to success is available to them. Let’s rewrite the rural narrative and push our students and our communities towards a thriving future.
To learn more about DIG and its programs, please visit www.digdp.org.