St. Louis public television station KETC is heading up a national initiative to increase community and, particularly, student awareness of the ‘STEM’ subjects (science, technology, engineering and math). Realscreen spoke with KETC’s vice president of education services Amy Shaw about the project and the doc the station is producing to enhance STEM learning.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the US has entrusted St. Louis public television station KETC to manage an effort aimed at engaging the public in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Part of the goal of this initiative is to connect members of the community with the resources in their area that relate to STEM subjects, such as science centers, higher education institutions and the industries around science and technology. ‘In St. Louis, STEM seems to be a very key economic driver, which is another important consideration…’ says Shaw. ‘This is something very important to the future of our entire region, from employment and corporate infrastructure to our position in the country in terms of attracting funding, technology start ups and the like. It’s important that people have an understanding of the role it plays in our daily lives.’
As part of the project, KETC and the seven participating stations (Iowa Public Television; Think-TV Network/Dayton, Ohio; Wyoming PBS; WCTE/Cookeville, Tennessee; WSKG/Binghamton, New York; Wisconsin Public Television; OETA/Oklahoma City; and New Hampshire Public TV) are partnering with community groups to determine the key needs of the community in terms of STEM awareness and how to engage people in the subject. For KETC, on air and online are the main ways they can offer to reach the public. The station plans to create half-hour and hour-long programs, feature STEM related content on existing magazine programs, and run interstitial programming – between 30 and 60 seconds in length – between longer programs with enough frequency to impact the viewer. ‘We’ve had a very successful testing of this model with our work around the mortgage crisis, where in two months we generated 18 million impressions around mortgage crisis content,’ says Shaw. ‘So we feel we’re going to have the same success with STEM.’ The station is currently in production on one of these programs, a doc that follows student teams taking part in a nationwide robot building competition (pictured, photo by Matt Huelskamp). KETC also has plans to use their YouTube channel and social networking to connect the community to STEM resources.
Shaw says this project is also about making addressing community issues a sustainable part of programming at public broadcasters. ‘It’s important to help stations think about the sustainability of this work, so it isn’t just that they got a little bit of seed funding from the corporation for public broadcasting, it’s about how to create the capacity within those organizations to address significant community issues that they see in their local communities in partnership with all the people who are doing the good work in the community already,’ says Shaw. ‘So public television doesn’t go it alone – we’re all much more successful by doing it together.’