The Rural Summer Science Camp received a boost this year from BioForward, an association representing more than 200 biohealth companies in Wisconsin.
BioForward directed $2,500 in proceeds from their annual member meeting to support the Rural Summer Science Camp. With the donation, BioForward joins a community of donors who have made the camps free of charge for Wisconsin high school students and teachers since 2007.
The annual camps invite high school students and a teacher to learn hands-on science, conduct experiments, and learn from scientists at the Morgridge Institute and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For 13 years, more than 300 academic high achievers from nearly 80 state high schools have participated—that includes some schools with enrollments of 50 or fewer students.
When BioForward weighed options for giving back to the community, it was an easy choice to support the summer camps because of the focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education in Wisconsin, says Lisa Johnson, BioForward CEO.
“It is important for us to give back to the community,” Johnson says. “We are excited to support organizations with novel programs who are really trying to have an impact on STEM education. That’s critical for our industry and to our member companies.”
“We are excited to support organizations with novel programs who are really trying to have an impact on STEM education.”Lisa Johnson, BioForward CEO
BioForward, which serves as an independent voice on Wisconsin’s biohealth industry, sees STEM education as a way to open up doors. The state’s industries and employers need talent “desperately” for highly trained, college-educated STEM employees from all corners of the state, Johnson adds.
And Johnson gets it. She grew up in Mt. Carroll, Ill., a community of about 1,000 residents in northwestern Illinois.
“I relate to small towns,” she says. “I experienced not having the money that the bigger schools have. You don’t get as many of the educational opportunities.”
The Rural Summer Science Camp has a strong commitment to serve all corners of the state. Since 2007, the camps have included students and teachers from Shell Lake in the Northwest; to Laona in the Northeast; to the Oneida Nation in Central Wisconsin; to Darlington in the Southwest; to Elkhorn in the Southeast.
“BioForward’s support will help us build and strengthen ties to talented students across the state and, perhaps even more importantly, to teachers who are committed to making STEM careers a reality for their students all across Wisconsin,” says Dan Murphy, outreach coordinator at the Morgridge Institute.
Supporting STEM in Wisconsin, and building confidence in rural students, will be critical for the biohealth industry’s long-term needs, Johnson says. The biohealth industry is growing statewide with strengths in digital health, health care systems, biological manufacturers, biotechnology and research.
“I was a good student coming out of a very small school,” Johnson says. “Wisconsin needs young people from all parts of the state to be enthusiastic, be motivated to go into science or engineering fields and know that this state gives them these career opportunities.”
For a high school student, a career may seem like a long way off. But camp organizers want to build student confidence and connect them to career development opportunities now.
“Biotechnology is a huge industry in Wisconsin, and this is a new opportunity for us to connect to that.”Dan Murphy, Outreach Coordinator
This year, campers are using LRNG, an online learning platform that offers micro-credentials, to gain access to resources and a guided experience before, during and after the camp. As they complete modules and gain expertise, students earn badges with credentials that are aligned to state education standards or job readiness standards.
“Biotechnology is a huge industry in Wisconsin, and this is a new opportunity for us to connect to that,” says Murphy. “The kids that come out of this camp can take this credential with them.”
Johnson says if she could tell a high school student one thing, it would be, “It doesn’t matter where you come from to have an impact on this world. Follow your passion whether it is in ecology, psychology, agricultural or in the bioscience area; follow the path that motivates you.”