LaSTEM, or the Louisiana Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Advisory Council, “is tasked to coordinate and oversee the creation, delivery and promotion of STEM education programs, to increase student interest and achievement in the fields of STEM, to ensure the alignment of education, economic development, industry and work force needs, and to increase the number of women who graduate from a postsecondary institution with a STEM degree or credential,” according to the council’s website.
Sci-Port will house the headquarters of the Region 7 Innovation Center. Region 7 encompasses the 10 Northwest Louisiana parishes of Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto, Lincoln, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine and Webster.
“There are a lot of wonderful, STEM-based opportunities that are spread throughout this community, this area, our state,” said Dianne Clark, Sci-Port’s executive director. “But there hasn’t been one agency responsible for cataloging those resources. There hasn’t been one agency in our region that has the responsibility of being the voice or the go-to or the leading force behind filling the gaps that currently exist for educational opportunities in STEM.”
In a new release, Sci-Port outlines its three goals for the new STEM Network Center and the network director as:
- Build strong foundations for STEM literacy by ensuring that every American has the opportunity to master basic STEM concepts and to become digitally literate.
- Increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM and provide all Americans with lifelong access to high-quality STEM education, especially those historically underserved and underrepresented in STEM fields and employment.
- Prepare the STEM Work Force for the Future — both college-educated STEM practitioners and those working in skilled trades that do not require a four-year degree — by creating authentic learning experiences that encourage and prepare learners to pursue STEM careers.
Sci-Port says it is accepting applications for the regional STEM director position. The goal is to have the post filled by Feb. 5.
This comes as Sci-Port has spent the past few months adapting to the changes the coronavirus brought to keep its doors open.
“We require masks, we require temperature checks at the door, we require social distancing, we have wait lists in our smaller areas so that we don’t get too congested or crowded at any one time,” Clark said. “Every staff member is carrying around disinfectant with a rag at all times.”
SnoPort, the center’s temporary but popular attraction, includes Legos for kids to use their imagination. Each individual Lego is sanitized between uses.
The community can expect more exciting news from the center throughout this year, Clark said. “2021 looks to be very promising if we can get COVID-19 under control with the vaccine.
“We are already seeing a glimmer of hope. Groups are starting to come back. We are seeing people call and start booking events with us,” Clark continued. “They are small; we have to stay within our guidelines. But they are beginning to branch out a little bit and trust that we are following safety protocols. We wouldn’t be open if we were not, and they are just beginning to trust a little bit more.”
“We’ve decided to extend SnoPort until the end of February,” Clark added. “We are going to announce some exciting plans for a little mini Mardi Gras at Sci-Port. That will be in February.
“This weekend, we have baby shark coming. Baby shark will be in the SnoPort area and will be available for all the patrons to come take photos and have a fun time. We will also have an ice-carving event. We will have some special surprises that we are not announcing. All I will tell you is to be here.
“Then the following weekend, we are doing a tribute to all of those who have put their lives on the line for us, protecting us, helping us helping us develop the protocols and procedures to keep us safe, taking care of those who have been affected by COVID, those who have worked with the families through the hardships. We want to thank everybody, all of those essential workers, who have been there month after month after month and gone unrecognized. We are offering free general admission for those essential workers, the frontline workers and their families. It’s just one very small way that Sci-Port can thank them for what they’ve done.”
Sci-Port Discovery Center is open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.