Message From the Executive Director

Supporting Maine’s Students to Build Maine’s STEM Future

Helping youth find their voice, finding ways to feed their passion for learning, and keeping their sense of wonder alive have all been driving forces propelling me forward in the work I do. This month our MMSA newsletter focuses on “Supporting Maine’s Students.” While many of our programs focus on working with educators, everything MMSA does works toward addressing the needs of our young people and defining new ways we can serve them better. We focus our efforts on finding new exciting and research-based strategies that will strengthen Maine’s future by helping to inspire the next generation of innovators, technicians, engineers, and scientists…problem solvers!

Executive Director Ruth Kermish-Allen and her childrenAs a high school science and math teacher I know firsthand what types of hurdles our young people need to overcome to learn effectively. I have seen how difficult it can be when students are placed in a learning environment that does not support their natural love of learning. As a mother I want the best possible learning opportunities for my children.

MMSA’s dedicated staff works hard every single day to find and share ways to support our young people to learn STEM concepts and applications in creative, engaging, and meaningful ways. We define strategies to link the growing STEM sectors in Maine to what they learn in the classroom – providing them with the exposure to and skills needed for the future jobs in our state. We connect youth with the often quiet but powerful STEM learning offerings our communities offer, such as camps, competitions, and learning centers.

Enjoy reading over our February newsletter, which highlights a range of projects and partnerships that MMSA is involved in that supports students, inspires students, and builds Maine’s STEM future!

Sincerely,

Ruth Kermish-Allen

 

Previous Messages from the Executive Director

January 2016: Where We’re Going – Together

I am not a believer in new year’s resolutions, but I am a staunch advocate of goal setting. The start of a new year is a perfect time to think about what we want to accomplish in the year ahead. One of MMSA’s major goals in the coming year is to foster strong and productive partnerships with organizations, communities, and individuals across the state. Maine is a very large state with a small but committed and hard-working population. Since we have such a small population we are all asked to wear many hats in our organizations, communities, and lives in general. In order to realize the vision MMSA has for our state – to empower our youth with engaging STEM learning experiences in- and out-of-school to raise student aspirations and achievement as well as preparing a STEM-literate workforce – we as an organization also need to wear many hats. Not only do we need to be leaders in developing STEM professional development and educational research, we also need to be great partners and leverage both our strengths and those of our partners.

By fostering strong partnerships amongst the outstanding organizations across our state and beyond, together we all make the most of the resources we have to work with, we learn from each other, and we create something greater than any of us could have done on our own.

It is for these reasons and many more that we are so excited to enter into 2016 with strong and evolving partnerships across the state with organizations like The Jackson Laboratory, University of Maine’s Cooperative Extension 4-H and the Research in Science Education (RiSE) Center, Maine’s Department of Education, Maine Arts Commission, MDI Biological Laboratory, the STEM Council, Axiom Technologies, Texas Instruments, school districts across the state, and many others. I hope you enjoy reading about some of these partnerships in more detail throughout our January newsletter and stay tuned for more info as partnerships continue to grow and evolve over the coming year.

Here’s to a great year ahead!

Best Regards,

Ruth Kermish-Allen

 

December 2015:

December is an interesting time of year for all of us. Not only are we trying to make our way through the darkest days of the year, we are also
celebrating the impending coming of the light as the Winter Solstice nears. Today, I am asking each and every one of you to think about the future of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education in Maine and what we can do together to realize the vision we would like to see. The vision MMSA has in mind is one where every student in Maine has the opportunity to feel the rush of excitement as the “light goes on” as they work to solve a problem, they see how the concepts they are learning can be applied to a project in their own community, and they see themselves in new and exciting careers right here in their home state of Maine.

Today, I ask you to support MMSA. As you can see from our year in review post, this year has been a very successful and transformative year for MMSA. But we need your support to make MMSA even stronger in the year to come. Did you know that just a $100 donation would provide the funds for an educator to attend one of our full-day workshops?

You could make a difference in the lives of educators by increasing their access to some of the highest quality STEAM professional development in the state! You could make a difference in Maine’s future by helping us inspire the next generation of innovators, technicians, engineers, scientists….problem solvers!

Please join us in realizing this vision by supporting MMSA today!

Thank you for all you do!
Best Regards,

Ruth Kermish-Allen

 

November 2015: Living and Learning Over the Past Year

I just celebrated my one-year anniversary as executive director here at MMSA. Reaching this milestone has inspired me to reflect on everything I

MMSA staff celebrated a new executive director joining the team one year ago.
MMSA staff celebrated a new executive director joining the team one year ago.

have learned over this past year…and my word, there sure has been a lot of learning to do. I spent a lot of time clarifying MMSA’s message, what we do, whom we work with, and why we do what we do.  In doing so I met with a number of organizations including schools and non-profits, universities, and legislators.  But most of all, I did a lot of listening and this is what I have learned about the state of STEM in Maine.

First, school districts and afterschool programs are looking for examples of high quality integrated STEM education in action.  Educators and administrators want to know what an integrated approach that spans across disciplines looks like.  Which districts have tried strategies that are working?  How were those strategies designed and would those strategies work in a different setting?  Did they build from the standards or did they start with core skills, like the guiding principles, and build out from there?  Educators are hungry for answers and examples of what success looks like.

Second, Maine has a wealth of creativity and resources that often go un-noticed. Not the typical forms of wealth like cash, corporate giving programs, etc. But instead, the resources behind the scenes like great technological infrastructures in our schools and libraries, a strong non-profit sector committed to strengthening Maine’s communities, committed and innovative educators that are not afraid to take a risk and try something different for the benefit of their students and community.

Third, partnerships between many different sectors is the only way we will be able to realize the change we want to see in STEM education across the state.  No institution can do it alone, therefore we need to build off of the strengths we each have and leverage them to create something larger than ourselves. The corporate sector wants to work with public education to fix the STEM workforce gap, educators in K-12 want to work with higher education and employers to design an education that will best meet the needs of their students, and all of us want to see youth engaged in learning across disciplines both in and out of school as that spark of wonder and love of learning grows for all Maine youth.

All of this provides the perfect breeding ground for innovation in STEM education across the state to meet the needs and interests I heard during my first year here at MMSA.  All of us here at MMSA are excited and ready to meet this challenge head on.  Through programs like Math and Science Through Engineering MMSA is designing integrated STEM models that can work across disciplines both in and out of school.  The Engineering Ambassadors project opens doors for conversation between STEM employers in our state and educators.  The STEM guides project builds connections across organizations in a region to strengthen the STEM learning opportunities for youth in that region. And these projects are just the beginning of what we have developing here at MMSA to build the STEM education capacity of our state.  Please invite your colleagues and friends to join us in this journey.  We hope to see you soon at our upcoming professional development opportunities across the state.  We want to hear from you as we work together to envision for the future of STEM education in Maine.

Best Regards,

Ruth Kermish-Allen

 

October 2015

Growing up in Maine is full of extremes, and no I don’t just mean the frigid winters and steaming summers. I mean a Ruth_and_familychildhood full of places to roam freely outdoors, but a 40-minute drive into town to get groceries and go to school. I mean laptops for every middle school student across the state, but not many opportunities for teachers to learn how to integrate them into classes effectively and productively. I mean an entrepreneurial economy that is built on the innovative, creative, “can-do” spirit of New Englanders, but more STEM-related jobs than the state’s educational system can fill.

MMSA leverages these extremes into our programs and turns them into opportunities, and that is why we love what we do. Our staff is full of passionate educators and creative researchers, which creates fertile ground for our core work:

  • Professional development in STEM education for educators in-school and out-of-school
  • Research and evaluation to understand “what works” in STEM education, with a specialty in rural education models
  • Working with partners to develop and implement STEM learning opportunities for youth in rural communities

As the relatively new executive director of MMSA, it is an honor to build on the strong work MMSA has accomplished over the past 23 years. In my role I have the opportunity to design exciting learning experiences for educators and youth, as well as developing new and creative research projects with some of the best talent in New England, if not the nation.  As we begin the 2015-2016 school year MMSA is growing stronger every day!  We are in a stronger position than we have been in over the past 10 years, our staff is growing, and our work is being recognized for its innovation and high quality across the county.

Here at MMSA, we envision a state and a nation in which all of our young people have the opportunity to get excited about STEM, understand how it relates to their lives, and see how a strong understanding of STEM will empower them as decision-makers and leaders into adulthood. With this vision in mind, we are ready to work with you to do what we do best…build relationships between schools, organizations, individuals, and communities to advance STEM education in Maine and the nation!

Best Regards,

Ruth Kermish-Allen

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