Portland schools-business partnership promotes STEM learning

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PORTLAND — Students, teachers, and business representatives from around the city gathered at the Ocean Gateway Terminal Monday for a first-of-its-kind education exposition.

The Portland Public Schools, in partnership with EnviroLogix, held the first STEM Exposition, which showcased science, technology, engineering and math projects and demonstrations by students, businesses, and post-secondary schools. 

“We know that one of the fastest-growing sectors of the economy is STEM and STEM-related careers,” Superintendent of Schools Emmanuel Caulk said.

EnviroLogix, which develops and manufactures kits to test food, feed, agriculture and water, partnered with the city schools two years ago to help advance the STEM curriculum. The company gave the district a $10,000 grant to be used for equipment, and also committed to giving the district more shadowing opportunities for students to see real scientists in action. And finally, EnviroLogix supported the expo.

“It’s interesting because sometimes you’ll have a partnership that just gives you the money,” Caulk said. “They gave us the resources, but also rolled up their sleeves and helped us with the planning.”

Students from the local middle and high schools, as well as three elementary schools and the Portland Arts and Technology High School (PATHS), presented a variety of exhibitions, ranging from the physics of sailing to engineering.

East End Community School students made models of the solar system that were all to scale. Instructional coach and fifth-grade teacher Karen Fream said the models were all made from materials from Ruth’s Reusable Resources in Portland. Students learned about the solar system, drew what the system looks like, then created 3-D models.

“The main thing was teaching students that we revolve around the sun,” Fream said.

Caulk said the plan is to have the exposition every year at the Ocean Gateway Terminal. He said the location was selected after looking at a number of different places, but its size, scenery and location proved to be major selling points. He said planners did not want to have the expo in a school, because they didn’t want to place an affinity on any one particular school.

In addition to the schools, there were several exhibits from the University of Southern Maine, the University of Maine at Orono, Southern Maine Community College, LearningWorks, the Maine Math Science Association, Kepware, and Texas Instruments.

“Just seeing the energy here in this room reinforces that we made the right decision to work on this endeavor, and (Superintendent Caulk) you’ve got our support in the future and we hope to have many more of these,” EnviroLogix CEO and President Markin said.

Caulk said while Portland has been known for its creativity, the district hadn’t been “all in” for STEM education in the past. He said the partnerships with EnviroLogix and others in post secondary education and the business world are changing that.

“We’re really making STEM the focus and showing the community that Portland Public Schools are a leader in STEM education,” Caulk said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Sidebar Elements


East End Community School fourth-graders Sincere Guess and Santana Richards present models of the solar system at the first STEM Expo at the Ocean Gateway Terminal in Portland on Monday, Nov. 10.

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Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.