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FALMOUTH — The School Department is partnering with the town’s Economic Improvement Committee in a business forum intended to provide students with real-world, hands-on experience, particularly in the fields of science, technology and engineering.
The forum will be held at Falmouth High School Tuesday, Feb. 12, from 12:30-1:30 p.m.
The focus of the event, which is free and open to the public, is on the importance of providing educational opportunities that promote workforce development, especially for careers in STEM.
In the past five years the high school has endorsed 87 graduates for STEM achievement, according to John Kraljic, the technology teacher at the school.
The requirements for the diploma endorsement include job shadowing and pursuing extended learning or internship options, along with choosing a senior project with a STEM theme and entering the Maine State Science Fair.
In addition, students must take four years of basic math and science, including chemistry and physics, as well as three additional credits from the school’s science, engineering and math electives.
Kraljic said since the school began offering the endorsement, students have interned with several businesses, including Port City Architecture and KG Partners in Portland, Norris Inc. in South Portland, and Lanco in Westbrook.
Students have also worked with Jackson Laboratories and MDI Biological Laboratories in Bar Harbor, and Bigelow Laboratories in East Boothbay.
Kraljic said it had been teh students who were finding the STEM-related internships. But now more and more businesses are approaching the school with offers.
“One of our hopes is that this (business forum) will result in even more opportunities for FHS students,” he said.
Kraljic said Falmouth High was the first secondary school in Maine to offer a STEM endorsement and said “a STEM-literate society is so important … (in kindling) ingenuity, creativity and technological (advances).”
He said the late Jim Caldwell, a Falmouth parent and engineer, helped to draft a STEM plan for the school called “Vision for 2020.”
However, Kraljic said, “we are nowhere near where we hoped to be in terms of developing meaningful internship opportunities, student-led research projects, and connections with the (wider) community.”
He’s hoping that next week’s business forum will be an important step in remedying that gap.
Generally, Kraljic said, businesses offering STEM internships or job shadow opportunities for Falmouth students must show a willingness to provide key access to “the people and processes that will result in student growth.”
He said students engaged in an internship must keep a weekly journal, which keeps the school informed as to how the student is spending their time and what they are actually getting out of the experience.
A job shadow only requires 12 contact hours, whereas an intern is expected to spend a longer period of time working for their selected firm.
So far, Kraljic said many of the internships “have been life-changing.” But ultimately “what the student gets out of the experience is proportionate to what they invest.”
The panelists for the business forum include Falmouth High senior Will Van Winkler, Kraljic and Andrew Hyland, a principal at Port City Architecture.
Meredith Sells, a graduate student intern with the town, said the forum is the result of a mandate from the Town Council for Falmouth to do more to link STEM education efforts and economic development.
Sells said the event will provide an opportunity for business leaders, students and teachers to engage in crucial networking.
Falmouth High School is partnering with the town’s Economic Improvement Committee to hold a STEM business forum Feb. 12.