Ed Committee recommends Jackson bill to support STEM mobile learning lab

AUGUSTA —The Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee recommended the passage of a bill from Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, that would establish a life-science mobile learning lab, in a party-line vote on Tuesday.

LD 1389, “An Act to Establish a Mobile Learning Lab” would expand traditional educational opportunities in life science and engineering for public students across the state. It would also expose students to career opportunities in life science and equip them with the skills and experience necessary to pursue this line of work later on.

“Rural school districts often lack the same access to state-of-the-art equipment and hands-on learning in STEM as schools in larger population centers due to cost and distance from large employers in this field. The Mobile Learning Lab offers an innovative way to level the playing field and ensure all students, regardless of where they live, have access to educational opportunities that can set them up for future success,” said President Jackson. “I’m grateful to the industry leaders who have partnered with me on this proposal and the members of the Education Committee who supported this bill. I’m hopeful the entire Legislature will follow suit.”

The lab would visit a different school each week and expose students to learning opportunities that could lead to careers in high-demand fields. It would supplement science education without burdening local communities and school districts with exorbitant costs.

“Today, the pipeline into STEM opportunities in Maine is very narrow. If we want to encourage more students to explore STEM careers, we as a community need to seek out new and innovative ways to reach those students without overburdening our K-12 system,” said Aileen Huang-Saad, PhD, MBA, The Roux Institute, Northeastern University in written testimony. “This is also an equity and fairness issue. We need to make sure that hands-on STEM learning reaches students in every corner of our state—not just our urban school districts or our better-resourced suburban districts. It is for these reasons that I am most inspired by this proposal.”

President Jackson introduced the proposal to support a Mobile Learning Lab after conversations with EducateMaine and the Roux Institute. It reflects a push to ensure that more Maine students have the life-science skills needed to enter Maine’s economy.

The initiative has already secured federal funding for the bus and equipment. President Jackson’s proposal would supply funds to complete the planning phase, develop a challenging curriculum and get the program up and running.

LD 1389 is supported by Maine Principals’ Association, the Roux Institute, Maine Community College System, The Jackson Laboratory, the Maine IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence, the Executive Director of the Maine Discovery Museum, BioME, and Learning Undefeated. The Senate and House will take initial votes on the proposal in the coming weeks.


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