Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (left) talks with IKM-Manning sixth-grader McKenna Mullen about a LEGO robot project during Friday’s STEM program held in Manning.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (left) talks with IKM-Manning sixth-grader McKenna Mullen about a LEGO robot project during Friday’s STEM program held in Manning.

March 21, 2016

Manning

It’s basketball season, March Madness.

But the cheers Friday afternoon in the IKM-Manning school gymnasium from hundreds of students, parents, educators and local business leaders weren’t for swished 3-pointers or rim-rattling dunks.

The clapping came for science and math projects, and the district’s leading role in what is a top initiative for Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.

“For the first time in my whole life, I saw kids cheering for curriculum,” said State Rep. Brian Best, R-Glidden.

Reynolds visited the Manning school for about two hours as part of the advancement of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Reynolds said IKM-Manning is “knocking it out of the park” on such education, which involves cooperation with area businesses like Puck Custom Enterprises and POET biorefinery.

Last April, a committee in Manning raised $50,000 to support STEM, and a gala this year is on track for more dollars, with $38,000 raised so far, said Jeanne Kerkhoff, a mother of four children in the system and Northwestern Mutual financial adviser from Templeton.

The district had 33 businesses participate in the K-6 STEM festival in December, and 30 in the 7-12 event in January.

“I definitely enjoyed learning what my peers do for a living and was more than impressed with the talent right here in our district,” Kerkhoff said.

The district presented Reynolds with a T-shirt, and the lieutenant governor then toured a number of projects displayed in the gym by kids of all ages.

“I’ve been following you on Twitter so I’m pretty familiar with what you are doing,” Reynolds said.

She said the STEM efforts in Iowa serve as national models.

“STEM is on the move in Iowa from the Missouri to the Mississippi,” Reynolds said.

IKM-Manning eighth-graders Will Jorgensen and Adam Gruhn showed Reynolds a “roller coaster” they constructed with tubing in teacher Jim Blankman’s class.

“It was a fun experience,” Gruhn said. “We learned how to measure potential and kinetic energy.”

Reynolds also spent time with pre-kindergarten LEGO projects, and heard first hand about robotics from sixth-grader McKenna Mullen.

“It does missions, we program it,” McKenna said as she talked with Reynolds about a miniature robot.

Reynolds said Iowa is desperate for a broader labor force, and it makes sense to connect children with local businesses early.

“They’re starting in high school now to talk to kids about the opportunities,” Reynolds said.

One key message Reynolds had for the young people: don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and try again. That’s part of being an entrepreneur.