BVU students and Dr. John Bedward in the STEM lab conducting a geoscience investigation on erosion and deposition.

Jan. 4, 2017

A gift of $500,000 from a generous couple has provided valuable resources and equipment to better prepare Buena Vista University education students to teach in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.

As part of the endowment's launch, students were able to experience the University's first-ever STEM classroom beginning this past fall semester. This state-of-the-art laboratory includes collaborative design environment, teleconference capabilities, surround sound technology, robotics equipment, a 3D printer and laboratory safety features.

"I'm humbled by the idea that people would entrust us to use their hard-earned dollars to enhance students' learning experiences," said Dr. John Bedward, assistant professor of education – STEM. "The STEM lab is a catalyst for our students to reengage with content through active participation and scientific reasoning versus lecture based-teaching."

“It's crucial for pre-service and in-service teachers to have the resources and equipment they need to excel in the classroom.”

Dr. John Bedward

The technology-enhanced STEM classroom is being used for several different disciplines across campus, including science, education and math. The classroom is also serving as a prototype for other BVU classrooms as well as for K-12 schools and other universities.

Mackenzie Reed, a senior elementary education major from Jackson, Minn., said the classroom's technology has had a big impact on her future teaching career. "The possibilities are endless in the STEM lab. I would love to have similar tools in my classroom someday because it would allow me to incorporate different strategies of teaching."

The endowment has provided several other opportunities for BVU students, including the chance to participate in STEM Day at the Iowa State Fair and to attend a statewide STEM conference. Students have also experienced a wide range of teaching experiences with the financial support of the endowment, including field work in Haiti.

"STEM provides different methods of approaching today's challenges because it intentionally incorporates four disciplines," said Bedward. "It's crucial for pre-service and in-service teachers to have the resources and equipment they need to excel in the classroom."

Starting in Fall 2017, BVU's education department will be offering a STEM endorsement to its already robust offerings. Other long term plans include adding more STEM classrooms across campus, offering a STEM summer residency program for existing K-12 teachers, implementing a STEM mobile lab that would provide tools for area teachers and developing a STEM master's program.