STEM Teaching Tools

The STEM Teaching Tools site has tools that can help you teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We are currently focused on supporting the teaching of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Each tool is focused on a specific issue and leverages the best knowledge from research and practice. Under the News section, you can learn a bit more about how you might use them. This article provides background on this effort. Review more resources in our Tools area and also check out the online “short courses”.


STEM Teaching Tools Website

The Solution

Idaho has a problem. We aren’t providing enough education and training to produce a STEM-ready workforce to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow in Idaho and it affects everyone. We have a solution and you can be part of it.

In July 2015, the legislature created the Idaho STEM Action Center (AC) to meet this need. Using the legislatively provided $2,000,000 and in-kind donations and a small amount of donations,  204,000 Idaho students and 4,800 educators participated last year in a STEM AC provided or supported program. That divides out to only $9.57 per person. Do that math. That’s incredible.

But what if we could reach more educators, students and communities? In order to plus up efforts, the STEM AC wants to add individuals and industry supporters and partners. On September 18, 2017, the Idaho STEM Action Center Foundation was created to raise awareness and funding of STEM AC efforts. This public charity is securing 501(c)(3) status.

Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter was instrumental to the creating of the STEM AC and sees the Foundation as “critical to gaining community and industry buy-in for more comprehensively building STEM into our K-through-Career Education system.” Maureen O’Toole, the Foundation’s founder, agrees, “The Foundation will multiply the STEM AC’s ability to provide innovative, life-shaping education by including the financial support of individuals and organizations.”

You + Idaho STEM Action Center Foundation = Solution

It all adds up. The Foundation wants you in the equation.

To learn more, contact Maureen O’Toole at, (208) 332-1723

Boise’s first Picademy Training

In July of 2017, the Idaho STEM Action Center partnered with the  Raspberry Pi Foundation to host the first Picadmey training in Boise, Idaho. This training was one of only four Picademy trainings across North America this year. Other 2017 training sites were in Providence, Rhode Island, Irvine, California and Ann Arbor, Michigan.

This training is geared towards providing educators with knowledge of digital making and the confidence to creatively compute with tools like the Raspberry Pi computer. Raspberry Pi minicomputers are the size of a credit card and plug directly into your monitor. These are an affordable way to allow people of all ages to engage in and get excited about computing and coding with languages such as Python and Scratch.

Two cohorts of forty educators from across the nation were chosen from a competitive pool to attend this highly sought-after professional development experience. 36 Idaho educators were among the 80 educators to receive training in Boise.

All educators who completed the training received official Raspberry Pi certification, recognizing their mastery of the skills they need to teach computer science and coding in their learning environments. As a part of this program, they also join global community of certified educators to exchange ideas and best practices.

The Idaho STEM Action Center is committed to Idaho’s computer science initiative. We are proud to have worked with global leaders like the Raspberry Pi Foundation to help increase statewide computer science awareness and access. Through sustained partnerships with global leaders in the field, the STEM Action Center will continue to provide high-quality professional development opportunities, grants, camps, competitions, scholarships and much more.

Check out Boise's Picademy Training:


Boise gets a piece of the Pi

Computers have come a long way since their inception. They are constantly changing and it can be difficult to keep up with the latest developments. Can you imagine working on a computer back when they were first built? Think of their size, speed and their ability. Think of the innovations in computer technology from the beginning, even in the last 10 or even 5 years. Computers have gotten smaller and more efficient. We have laptops, tablets, cell phones and cool innovated things like Raspberry Pis. Raspberry Pis? Nope, not a food blog and this definitely isn’t something you eat. According to Raspberry Pi’s website, a Raspberry Pi is a debit card sized computer that plugs right into a computer monitor or TV. It is a really low cost way that enables people of all ages to explore computing! It also allows people to learn how to program in languages like Python and Scratch. It’s a mini computer! How cool is that?

We at the Idaho STEM Action Center are super excited about it too! In fact, we are so excited that we partnered with Picademy, Raspberry Pi’s Foundation, to bring one of four national trainings to Idaho. That’s one of four national trainings, right here in the Gem State. What an incredible opportunity for Idaho!

Idaho’s Picademy professional development sessions will convene August 7-8 and 10-11, the two-day trainings will be held at Jack’s Urban Meeting Place (JUMP, 1000 W Myrtle St, 83702) in Boise.

Each of the two training sessions has 40 educators (formal, librarians, after school educational programs, etc.) each. Picademy had total control of who was selected but 36 educators from Idaho were accepted into the 80 available slots, go Idaho (remember, it’s national)!

The Idaho STEM Action Center is happy to provide selected Idaho educators with travel funds to attend the Boise trainings. Educators that complete the training will be an official Raspberry Pi Certified educator, receive a swag bag full of goodies, and have access to a network of other certified teachers across the world, while building their skills and knowledge of creative computing and much more. To find out more information about Raspberry Pi, click here. To find out more about the Idaho STEM Action Center, click here.

Help Idaho Define “STEM School”

House Bill 70, which is intended to honor and award STEM schools, passed both the House and Senate during the 2017 session with significant bipartisan support. This bill will allow schools to apply for a STEM School Designation that would be awarded by the State Board of Education in conjunction with the Governor’s Idaho STEM Action Center. The goal of this designation is to publicly recognize schools that offer a high quality, integrated STEM education that can serve to highlight best practices in STEM throughout Idaho. The established criteria will also serve as a guide for the creation of new STEM schools. The Idaho designation is voluntary and may come with a monetary incentive for successful applicants.

You can help Idaho determine the parameters that will be used to award the STEM School Designation. In its June bulletin, the State Board of Education will request that interested participants sign up to be part of the negotiated rule-making process. The committee will meet from July – September 2017. The final recommendations will go before the State Board of Education during the October meeting. If passed, these will move to the 2018 legislative session for final approval. This would mean that during the 2018 – 2019 school year, STEM schools could apply to the STEM Action Center for the designation.

Please click here to review the May Bulletin, page 50 to register for the negotiated rule making. Please contact Tracie Bent as soon as possible if you are interested in participating as the deadline has been extended to mid-June.

Leaving Salmon

Leaving Salmon, Idaho takes effort. So when asked to join MakerEd’s Convening 2017 located in San Francisco, I said yes, fully knowing the journey that lay ahead. Salmon sits nestled at the base of the Rocky Mountains and is surrounded by sweeping landscapes of sagebrush to the south and pine forest to the north. Most locals enjoy the solitude and isolation that this remote region offers and I was wondering how my last two years here would affect me upon re-entering civilization. From the moment I stepped off the plane in Oakland, CA I quickly realized the gap in the technological world. Everyday citizens were using Uber and Lyft to mobilize and headphones attached to smartphones accompanied their morning commute. They had everything down to a science and it was a beehive of activity with each with person playing a part in the overall dance. At times I got caught up in it all. At times I longed for the slow pace of Salmon. But I refocused on why I was in San Francisco in the first place and that was to represent that very rural voice that had been missing.


Accepting the proposal to speak in front of a group of 250 educators can certainly seem daunting, but knowing that most people in that room know more about making than me, having only started this journey a short 1.5 years ago, elevated that stress level. Having to wait around through keynotes, workshops, and demonstrations on the latest approaches to Making was the hardest part. How can one enjoy oneself at a conference like this knowing your moment is still to come? Deep breathing exercises and frequent walks around the building definitely helped ease the overwhelming feelings I experienced.


Prior to my 5 minutes of mini-fame, I made best use of my time and engaged. I had the good fortune of being toured around Autodesk’s 2nd floor display in the Landmark building where our conference opening reception was held.


Daniella Shoshan from MakerEd, pointed out the hack your name tag display as well as potential connections I should make during the evening’s soiree. I’m grateful to have received this inside information as it allowed me to connect with Nation of Maker’s Executive Director Dorothy Jones-Davis who has a passion for helping and doing, not to mention her resume is packed with years of experience. I got educated by Peter Wardrip from the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh on how to become a better facilitator. He helped break down different learner types that enter your Makerspace and identify strategies with which to engage them. You can find out more by playing the “Making Connections” card game yourself. I got to meet with Tim Carrigan from the Institute of Museum and Library Services who taught me some core Makerspace framework principles to think about before creating one myself. I learned quick maker hacks for children’s books from Nora Peters, a librarian from the boroughs of Pittsburgh, which I’m excited to bring back to Salmon. All of that led up to the moment at the end of the conference when the 12 brave souls who signed up to speak would unveil their stories.


I was sixth to speak, right in the middle of the pack. I listened to the professionalism and poise of the first few speakers as they gracefully took the stage. An in-house facilitator, trained as a graphical artist quickly drew each talk as it happened. Then it was my turn. Knowing full well my talk deviated from the norm I was nervous. I was not up there to educate as a Maker Educator, but instead to tell them how I’ve been educated from Making. My story must have rung true as I felt the room’s applause. No matter where you’re from or what your experience, a simple story can still resonate. And that’s what I did, I told my story.



The simple lesson I shared was that through Making we’re learning to listen. If we listen, if we create a dialogue between two people, then we have a chance at discovery despite politics, experiences, race, gender, or any other pre-judgements we might enter with. It was with this that I felt joy in my heart, for I knew that my trip was a success. I felt I gave something of myself on the floor and someone in that room walked away a bit more empowered, a bit more inspired, a bit more ready to engage. That is all I could hope for. It’s the same when we approach Making, one child at time, one mind at time, one change at a time. I’m grateful to be on this path.

For more information on how you can help the Salmon Public Library on their Making adventure check out For more information on our current happenings check out our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accts @SalmonPublicLib

Legislators Pass Computer Science Standards

We have exciting news for Idaho’s Computer Science community! Idaho legislators unanimously passed Idaho Content Standards in Computer Science (IDAPA during the 2017 session. The development committee for the Idaho Computer Science Standards was comprised of State Department of Education staff, Career-Technical-Education staff, STEM AC staff, K-12 educators and administrators, higher education, and industry experts invested in creating guidelines and a roadmap for K-12 CS education offerings and ensuring a common tool that could be used across the state.


Computer Science is a rapidly growing field and according to the Idaho Department of Labor, Idaho has 1,300 unfilled computer science-related job openings. Therefore, the intent of the CS standards is to help clarify student learning outcomes and to provide guidance to districts and educators that choose to implement CS for their students.

The STEM Action Center recognizes that CS might be unfamiliar for some educators, so we have teamed up with several organizations to provide high-quality statewide CS professional development workshops. K-12 educators are encouraged to apply for a variety of opportunities that will teach innovative ways to incorporate CS into classroom instruction and provide the ongoing support they need to be successful.

Here are a few grants currently open that are aligned with the new Idaho CS Standards:

  • C-STEM Center Professional Development
  •’s Professional Learning Program
  • University of Idaho’s Dual Credit Training
  • Picademy USA PD Training
  • iSTEM Summer Institute

K-12 educator interested in getting ready to implement the recently adopted Idaho Computer Science Standards check out CS-specific professional development opportunities at