Schools have until April 13 to apply for state STEM campaign

More than a dozen schools so far have applied to join an effort to bring innovative STEM programs to underserved communities statewide.

The Illinois Bicentennial STEM Fusion campaign, launched last month by the governor's office and Aurora-based Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, is a three-year program to be offered at 25 elementary and middle schools with underrepresented populations.

IMSA will provide training for middle school teachers from selected schools on its unique curriculum to inspire fourth- through eighth-graders to study math and science and pursue careers in technology, medicine, education and business.

"Schools will be chosen based on need," said Stuart Layne, executive director of the Governor's Office of the Illinois Bicentennial. "It's to inspire fourth- through eighth-graders to really engage in a career path that is interesting to them and gives them a focus for their future. We look at this as a legacy project ... a way to impact young people to influence the next 200 years."

Officials are making a harder push to get more schools to apply as the April 13 deadline approaches.

IMSA was chosen to lead the teacher training because "they're the experts," Layne said.

"Their academy is amazing," he said. "The technology labs, the teachers, it's an amazing place. I don't know that there's any place like it in Illinois."

IMSA's Fusion curriculum is inquiry based, problem centered and integrative. It focuses on helping students "learn how to learn" and emphasizes logic, mathematical thinking and experimental scientific thinking through topics relevant to students' lives. Partner schools are provided with curriculum, classroom kits, and ongoing teacher training and support to develop STEM enrichment programs.

"It is one of our most popular and most successful programs," said Mary Collins, IMSA director of special projects. "We wanted to get it into more schools. Our hope is they have got a plan in place that they will continue this. We want this to become part of their curriculum."

The campaign is sponsored by Abbott and Wintrust. Funding also is provided by Boeing, Ingredion and Motorola.

A committee will select participating schools to be announced in mid-May and teacher training will begin this fall. To apply, visit

  The Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy will train teachers from selected schools on the IMSA curriculum to inspire fourth- through eighth-graders to study math and science and pursue careers in technology, education, medicine and business. Mark Black/
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