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June 21, 2018 10:00 PM

Wheels Up For Washington

Sioux Falls

It's a big honor for the Superintendent of the Sioux Falls School District.

Dr. Brian Maher is packing up for a conference in the nation's capitol. 

STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math has been incorporated into the Sioux Falls School District for many years, but this summit will find new ways to add it to curriculum. 

In tonight's Eye on KELOLAND, Claire Lavezzorio caught up with the Superintendent before its wheels up for Washington. 

The sound of science, the touch of technology, engineering electricity and making music with math. 

That's what's happening at KIDS Inc., a Sioux Falls School District after school and summer enrichment program. 

"What are the jobs that are going to be available? I think almost all of those jobs have some sort of computational thinking behind them," said Maher. 

District Superintendent Brian Maher says that's the reasoning behind more STEM-focused activities, even when school is out for summer. 

"We think of that as sometimes just an AP Calculus course, or an AP Physics course, but actually that is interwoven really across the curriculum," Maher said. 

Part of Chandra VanHout's job as a district specialist is to come up with ways to incorporate STEM learning into the classroom. 

"Build a castle, or a toy, just to create something," said VanHout. 

She's organizing STEM boxes, something she came up with for the next group of KID's Inc.

"Just provide activities where the kids can be more hands on and experimenting and having fun with their learning," says VanHout. 

Pipe cleaners, building blocks and even toilet paper rolls are here to teach kids about strategy and problem-solving. 

But Maher wants to take the next step and integrate STEM into classrooms beginning in kindergarten.

And it's wheels up. Literally. 

"First of all for me personally, it's my first trip to D.C., you think by my age, I would have been there a few times by now," said Maher. 

Governor Dennis Daugaard nominated Maher to join 150 educators at the White House for a first-of-its kind STEM Summit. 

"I immediately said yes, out on Monday morning back on Tuesday night," Maher said. 

He's the only K-12 South Dakota educator heading to Washington to develop a five-year national plan for STEM education. 

"I think we do that to some degree right now, this will allow us to make sure in an intentional way we're doing it in the Sioux Falls School District and also I hope maybe my trip has a broader impact than just within the school district," said Maher. 

Maher says once he's back from D.C., his goal is to incorporate STEM into every school, grade and classroom across the district. 

"I'm hoping this will emphasize the leadership role we have in STEM not only throughout South Dakota but throughout the Midwest,"  Maher said. 

The STEM Education Summit will be hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. The trip is funded through the National Science Foundation.

Maher will be in D.C. Monday and Tuesday of next week. 

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