North Dakota needs creative problem solving, science, critical thinking, and creativity. Our children need Gateway to Science.
STEM skills are universal skills, transferable and adaptable across industries and occupations. North Dakota’s Gateway to Science is a trusted resource for educators, parents and students since 1994, both onsite in the Bismarck exhibits gallery and offsite in Gateway to Science on the Go outreach programs throughout the state. North Dakota needs students and citizens with STEM skills to grow and prosper. North Dakota needs Gateway to Science.
North Dakota’s Gateway to Science (NDGTS) has a track record of innovation, a statewide network of partners in education, industry, and government, and vetted, ready-to-execute plans for expansion to serve all North Dakotans. At NDGTS, we see an exceptional opportunity to provide hands-on learning experiences that connect students of all ages and backgrounds to the STEM happening around them.
According to the National Science Teachers Association, “the learning experiences delivered by parents, friends and educators in informal environments can spark student interest in science and provide opportunities to broaden and deepen student’s engagement; reinforce scientific concepts and practices introduced during the school day; and promote an appreciation for, and interest in, the pursuit of science in school and in daily life.”
Informal learning environments like NDGTS also offer “important and unique opportunities to engage students who come from communities historically underrepresented in the sciences,” including women and black, Hispanic and American Indian students.
The science center’s emphasis on hands-on exploration is key. Our exhibits, out-of-school time programs, and special events are aligned with state and national science standards and are designed to build on the instruction students receive in the classroom with interactive, creative experiences. Education Commission of the States reports that 8th grade students in North Dakota are less likely than their peers in other states to engage in hands-on science investigation in school. Gateway to Science programming addresses this gap and offers elementary and middle school students hands-on learning opportunities before they encounter lab science courses in high school.
Our expanded hands-on exhibit gallery – 5 1/2 times more than the former space – tells the story of innovation and opportunity in North Dakota to visitors of all ages. The gallery features major North Dakota industries and resources—energy, agriculture, health care, transportation, water, weather and engineering. We collaborated with Science Museum of Minnesota to design exhibits that are:
- be hands-on and provide open-ended learning opportunities
- focus on STEM careers
- inspire creativity and problem-solving
- demonstrate real-world applications
- spotlight innovation.
The second floor of the new gallery features The Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Innovation Space, a 7,800-square-foot innovation/maker space. According to Maker Media, “maker spaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone.” The flexible space will feature movable tables and chairs, varied consumables and advanced technology, including a large-format printer and 3D printer.
Gateway to Science on the Go offers a diverse slate of educational outreach programs with a focus on reaching underrepresented communities in North Dakota and multi-generational learning. In our current facility, we are only able to schedule one out-of-school-time program at a time given the limited classroom space we share with other non-profits. The new science center will have two indoor classrooms, an outdoor classroom and the Frank Koch Laboratory to host programming. We will be able to offer multiple workshops, after school clubs or summer camps concurrently. This will allow our staff educators to expand successful existing programs, such as Girls Engineering Week and coding workshops, and roll out innovative new programs to reach targeted populations.
North Dakota’s Gateway to Science has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade, and the need for its programs continue to become more urgent. Now, more than ever, North Dakota needs North Dakota’s Gateway to Science and what if offers our children, our workforce, and our future.