Matching cooperative donations support Iowa high school STEM programs

STEM donation RCHS 2017

Nishnabotna Valley Rural Electric Cooperative CEO Carmen Hosack presents the $2,200 donation to industrial arts teacher Nate Clausen. Also present were Riverside Community High School Principal Dave Gute and several students that will benefit from the donation.

Cooperation among cooperatives and concern for community are two of the seven principles Basin Electric and its members operate under the cooperative business model, and both were showcased in a recent donation made to two Iowa high schools.

Each year, Basin Electric allocates a portion of its Charitable Giving Program’s budget as matching funds for donations made by its member systems, allowing their donations to go even farther in their communities. Class C member Nishnabotna Valley Rural Electric Cooperative recently doubled its $1,100 donation when it applied for Basin Electric matching funds to be used to help fund two area high school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs. The donation was doubled again when CoBank, a national cooperative bank and lender, matched the now $2,200 donation, bringing the total to $4,400.

Because it receives several requests every year, the Nishnabotna board of directors decided to split this year’s donation in half to support two local high schools: Harlan Community High School in Harlan, Iowa, and Riverside Community High School in Oakland, Iowa.

Nate Clausen, an industrial arts teacher at Riverside Community High School says its half of the grant will be used to help fund a bridge-building project for his portion of an exploratory class and a rocket-building project for his introduction to industrial arts class. The exploratory class is a semester-long class required of all eighth graders and explores careers in several different areas, including agriculture, music, physical education, and industrial arts. The introduction to industrial arts class is an elective designed to show the different job opportunities available in the construction field. “Both classes give the kids the opportunity to see what’s out there and now it relates to everyday life,” he says.

Both the bridge and rocket projects will teach students what the engineering design process is and how they can use it to guide their thinking and design. The bridge project will teach them about how bridges are built today and why they are built differently depending on where they are located. It will also show them how the bridge transfers weight as automobiles are passing over them and how the materials used in building the bridge impact the longevity of the structure.

The rocket project will teach the students how to find the height of the rocket, how the design impacts how fast and straight it will fly, and how mass and balance impact acceleration. “Hands-on projects like these really help engage the students and make the classes more interesting,” Clausen says.

The other $2,200 grant was given to Harlan Community High School. The grant will be used by the school’s science department to replace some of the non-functioning microscopes and to buy a new, more interactive science curriculum. “The new curriculum is designed to be more interactive than what is currently being used, and ‘hook’ the students, getting them more engaged and involved,” says science teacher Andrew Sandquist.

The new curriculum includes an online textbook that will allow students to work at different paces based on their abilities, and allows them to highlight text and add notes directly in the book so all their materials are in one spot. It also allows students to be able to perform searches of a word or topic, and brings up articles and in-depth information about what they’re looking for. “It’s pretty phenomenal,” Sandquist says.

Sandquist says the grant allows his department to try the curriculum out to make sure it’s a good fit before having to purchase long-term licenses. “If the kids really like it, we can go to the administration and ask for funding and we’ll have information to back up our request. Normally we have to use our department’s limited budget to try it out before going to the administration. This grant allows us to try the curriculum without having to take away from the other things our department needs,” he says.

Nishnabotna takes pride in supporting its community in several different ways from its employees and members volunteering their time to providing financial support for worthy causes. “Nishnabotna Valley REC is committed to continuing its support of local organizations,” says Janell Leinen, the co-op’s communicator. “We sincerely appreciate the financial support of Basin Electric and CoBank through their matching donation programs. That is truly an example of the cooperative difference.”

STEM donation HCHS 2017

Harlan Community High School science teachers Jeff Fah, Andrew Sandquist, and Matt Hoch along with some of their students pose for a photo while Nishnabotna  CEO Carmen Hosack presents science teacher Brent Tucker with a donation to replace microscopes and purchase a new curriculum for the school’s science department.

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