Columbia community teams up with public schools to push STEM

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COLUMBIA - Business leaders and members from the community planned to meet with Columbia Public Schools (CPS) Tuesday evening to discuss how to get students more interested and involved in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). 

Dr. Peter Stiepleman, CPS superintendent, planned to lead the discussion at Battle High School, highlighting the current role STEM plays in the district. 

The goal of the program, according to CPS's website, is to "build a collaborative network of educators, business partners and organizations" to help spike interest in STEM and overall create a work force that filters into Columbia. 

"I think the original idea behind it is we need more people that when they graduate are ready to go into those STEM fields," STEM Specialist Heather McCullar said. "There's not as many people, when they graduate that are prepared with the skills needed to do that."

McCullar said there are certain things the community can offer that teachers cannot. 

Benton Elementary School is the only school in Columbia at this time that specializes in STEM. McCullar teaches at the school and said STEM is important because it gives students the opportunity to apply the things they learn to real-life situations.

"It's important to know the process," McCullar said. "So it's more about teaching the engineering design process, having kids learn the problem solving process. So that way no matter what career they go in they're able to define a problem and come up with multiple solutions for it because that's necessary in any career that you might choose."

McCullar said the event is important because it's a time for the community to have a voice and to have that voice heard. Event organizers' goal was to be able to give businesses another way to build relationships within the community and to give students another outlook on the future. 

[This story has been updated for clarity.]