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University of Illinois Extension staff in the Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit are collaborating with River City Labs, Caterpillar STEM Outreach, Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, and Champaign-Urbana Fab Lab to provide engaging and interactive events and discussions focused around STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education and how educators and out-of-school time providers can implement new ideas in their programming. The ongoing program called Teacher Tuesday has reached 61 educators from public and private schools, museums, libraries, universities, and businesses, in the first two events held.

Educational programming is rapidly evolving to support the needs and interests of 21st-century learners. In our region, we have a growing network interested in developing activities which can help teachers educate students in STEM programming through self-directed, collaborative, and interactive activities. Host sites provide the added benefit of exploring the wide variety of careers available in a STEM related field.

In December 2016, participants gathered for the first Teacher Tuesday at the Peoria Playhouse and began making connections with other people interested in STEM, sharing what they are currently doing and what resources are needed to support them.

In February, participants toured Jump Simulation & Education Center and witnessed the cutting edge training facilities and learned how Jump is serving youth audiences as well. The agenda included a tour of several simulation areas, a presentation by one of their bio-engineers, and a hands-on anatomy lesson in the "wet lab." Brenda Pacey from UIUC introduced Project Lead the Way curriculum resources.

Educators from Peoria, Woodford, Tazewell, Fulton, and Warren Counties have been involved so far. The network is expected to continue to grow with the next event scheduled for April 4 at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

When asked what they learned and hope to apply to their work with youth, one participant responded, "I teach body systems to my 5th graders and the wet lab (anatomy lab) was so wonderful for that. I would just love to bring the students there. It was impressive and right here in our community. Everyone should visit!"

Judy Schmidt, 4-H metro youth development educator | 309-685-3140 |

Kathleen Brown, community & economic development educator |