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Ignited: Sparking Innovation in STEM Education, Preparing the Next Generation of Innovators

Nonprofit Offers Teachers Fellowships at Top Companies and Universities to Equip Students for Jobs of Tomorrow

As technology accelerates the pace of innovation, the way our education system prepares students for success must also fundamentally change. Experts estimate that 85 percent of jobs that will exist in 2030 have not yet been invented, which means how children learn is paramount to what they learn. Today’s students need skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration to tackle the unknown challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. Yet critics say our schools are currently preparing students for jobs that no longer exist.

That’s why Ignited (www.IgnitEducation.org) is connecting teachers with top companies and universities to transform STEM learning.

Through its Summer Fellowship Program, the Bay Area-based nonprofit puts teachers to work for eight weeks in the trenches at companies and universities. The teachers gain hands-on experience in how businesses approach innovation and bring this knowledge back to their classrooms with interesting new curriculum, experiments, and teaching practices to inspire and prepare their students. Amazon, Genentech, Google, Lockheed Martin, Oculus, Stanford, and many more are among Ignited’s partners leading the charge to reinvent STEM learning.

"Investing in teachers is one of the smartest ways a company can locally impact STEM learning,” said Ignited's CEO, Shari Liss. “A single Ignited Fellow can reach well over a thousand Bay Area students in their career. Over the last three decades, we've had an impact on more than 3 million students."

Students discover from their teachers what it's like to work at well-known companies. They see how the skills they're learning can be put to work in a wide range of industries, from consumer technology to aerospace. Ignited leaders can provide insights on topics such as:

* 21st Century Skills - Teamwork, communication, exploration, and creativity — rather than rote memorization of facts — are among top traits today’s students need to succeed.

* Winning the Future: What Students Need - Ignited leaders share top skills and abilities students need from their work with the cream of the Silicon Valley corporate crop.

* Bringing Agility to Education - In today’s globally competitive environment, companies can’t wait for governments to update school curricula. By bringing teachers into the workplace, and forming ongoing relationships with schools, they spread relevant learning to classrooms where students can benefit now.

The name Ignited is new, but its mission is not. Leaders of 12 Silicon Valley technology companies originally established the organization in 1985 as Industry Initiatives for Science and Math Education (IISME) in partnership with the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley. These founders recognized the need for a strong local workforce proficient in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to sustain the innovation that was critical to their success.

Over more than three decades, the organization has connected hundreds of companies, universities, and government labs with thousands of teachers to impact more than 3 million students. It has awarded 3,704 fellowships to teachers from kindergarten through college level in 743 schools through the Bay Area. More than 30 percent of the students who benefit are disadvantaged and underrepresented in STEM fields.

“We have seen the tremendous power of teachers as change agents,” Liss says. “We have found that educators at every level of experience benefit from spending time in a real-world environment working side-by-side with other innovative professionals. It really helps bring relevance and passion into STEM education.”

Among 2016 Fellows surveyed a year after participating, 95% rated their Fellowship as “the best” or in the “top 10%” of their professional development experiences. Teachers unanimously reported their Fellowship had a positive impact on student learning, with 98% reporting they experimented with new teaching strategies or applied new instructional practices.

“Our participants return to their classrooms with first-hand knowledge of the techniques, equipment, and cultures of cutting-edge workplaces, along with the ability to create tailored STEM curriculum that engages and inspires their students,” Liss says.

Download a One Pager for Ignited.

PRESS RELEASE 06/14/18 Top Companies, Universities Spark STEM Innovation Through Ignited Teacher Fellowships
PRESS RELEASE 08/29/18 Taking Innovation Back to School

To learn more, visit www.IgnitEducation.org.
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