Rural communities often lack access to informal learning opportunities. The Rural STEM Learning Summit will promote collaboration and support for rural STEM educators and administrators, professionals, and organizations. Research demonstrates the strengths of rural social enterprises, regional networks, and extended proximity in catalyzing innovation and providing opportunities to overcome these unique challenges. However, rural STEM initiatives face common barriers, such as physical distance, lack of infrastructure, limited individual capacity and stretched resources in developing and maintaining STEM ecosystems. The conference will provide a critical opportunity for enhancing knowledge around innovation in these areas and sharing lessons learned with and advancing collaboration. The focus will be on collective impact, rural empowerment, and successful rural STEM programs. Topics will include research and evaluation, arts integration, partnerships, working with under-resourced populations, and building rural STEM identity.
The conference will use a variety of formats, including keynotes, brief ("flash") talks presenting quick overviews of programs and ideas, hosted workshops providing ready-made activities and resources, facilitated workshops led by experts, project directors and researchers, and informal opportunities to meet those with common interests. The conference will be structured as a hybrid format with in-person and digital options to support participation. The conference will engage registrants in facilitated discussions aimed at grouping participants around common interests. These cohorts will navigate the conference as a team and collaborate on developing a shared practice/product that can be tested locally and shared more broadly. By engaging a wide variety of rural stakeholders, federal and state governmental institutions, perspectives, viewpoints, and regions, the conference will offer a distinct opportunity for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. The conference will host follow-up sessions that will foster continuing collaboration and build momentum for an annual rural STEM education conference.
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