ST. LOUIS, M0. — Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, has provided the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center with a $75,000 grant to support K-12 after-school STEAM+Ag curriculum with authentic research experiences (AREs) at the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Center in East St. Louis, Ill.
As part of the new Jackie Joyner-Kersee Food, Agriculture, Nutrition Innovation Center (JJK FAN) students will engage in activities to learn about genetics, molecular biology, plant pathology, food and agricultural science, and image analytics. To support the new ARE curriculum, the Danforth Center will also develop and facilitate a new professional development program for the JJK Center’s staff that centers around and expands upon the cultural knowledge of the community.
The JJK FAN Innovation Center, is a partnership between the Danforth Center, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and JJK Center to serve kids in one of the most neglected communities in the country. An important component of the JJK partnership is to foster a culturally relevant education where students can see themselves as scientists. In a given week, there are at least 100-125 students at the JJK Center who participate in at least one or several STEAM+AG activities with the Danforth Center.
“With Boeing’s help, we are creating a hands-on STEAM+AG education and work force development pipeline from kindergarten to adult that provides opportunities for people to develop marketable skills in urban agriculture, innovation, and entrepreneurship while learning about the importance of food production and improving their own communities’ access to nutrition,” said Kristine Callis-Duehl, PhD, the Sally and Derick Driemeyer director of education research and outreach at the Danforth Center.
Boeing support enabled the Danforth Center to hire Darius Pikes as its first on-site Urban Ag and STEAM Educator to implement the curriculum at the JJK Center. Pikes is a St. Louis native and has worked as a science teacher, music teacher, and STEM educator. He taught for 20 years in the the East St. Louis School District, and has a special connection with the community.
“Darius brings a unique relationship with the community,” Callis-Duehl said. “He brings an enthusiasm to education that is really refreshing.”
To foster a route to college, the Danforth Center now also offers internships at its innovative research facility in 39 North to high school students enrolled at the JJK Center after-school program. “The goal is to promote intellectual, ethnic, and racial diversity and support ideas that can come out of East St. Louis students,” Callis-Duehl, added. “This cradle-to-career pathway will help create opportunities for the colleagues that will be working with us here at the Danforth Center in the future.”
Boeing has been a vital partner in the Danforth Center’s STEAM education and outreach efforts since 2007, including support for Tech Trunks, a program that provided St. Louis-area high school students with equipment and materials to conduct experiments in biology, biotechnology, and genetics. In 2017, Boeing became a major supporter of the Danforth Center’s Green Means Grow program designed to empower K-5th grade students to grow their own food, appreciate food choices and learn about farming practices throughout the world. The Danforth Center’s partnership with Boeing also helped support Conversations, a series of free panel discussions for the community on topics such as food security, bioenergy and the regional economic impact of the agtech ecosystem.
“We want all children to be able to see themselves as future STEM professionals,” said Brittany Douglas, Senior Community Investor of The Boeing Company. “This partnership helps to foster growth and learning, and it makes children realize what they’re capable of accomplishing. We hope that one day some of these students may find their way to careers at Boeing.”
About the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education, and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.
As a leading global aerospace company, Boeing develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries. As a top U.S. exporter, the company leverages the talents of a global supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability and community impact. Boeing’s diverse team is committed to innovating for the future and living the company’s core values of safety, quality and integrity. Learn more at www.boeing.com.
— Donald Danforth Plant Science Center