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Venture Academics Receives $25,000 State STEM Grant

Linn-Mar’s new Venture Academics Program has been recognized by the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council as one of the 22 STEM BEST (Businesses Engaging Students and Teachers) Program models for 2021

The program brings together schools and businesses to create outstanding STEM learning experiences that prepare students for exciting, in-demand careers. With the addition of 22 awards, 80 programs have been created since STEM BEST launched in 2014.

The STEM Best Program supports school-business partnerships that allow teachers and industry professionals to work side-by-side on curriculum and projects that give students actual workplace experience. In the projects, students also gain an understanding of the opportunities and required skills for careers in STEM fields. STEM BEST has also laid the groundwork for other successful statewide initiatives such as Future Ready Iowa’s Work-Based Learning Clearinghouse.

Linn-Mar’s Venture Academics is a new and innovative learning program designed to allow students the opportunity to earn traditional high school credit through non-traditional, project-based experiences.  The Marion Economic Development Corporation (MEDCO) will provide primary partnership support for Venture, with participation open to both Linn-Mar Community and Marion Independent School District students.

At Venture, students begin by choosing a subject area of interest with associated high school coursework and then addressing course learning targets through project-based experiences.  Project-based experiences will be tied largely to local and area business, government, education, and industry and provide value to students and community partners.

Venture Academics will build on traditional, foundational learning and extend STEM concepts and processes through application, evaluation, analysis, and invention.  Experiences will be available in several content areas including Graphic Arts, Life Science, Business Foundations, Advanced Business, Behavioral Science, Writing, Health Science, Earth Science, Environmental Science, and Government and Law.

“The Governor’s STEM BEST Award will provide Linn-Mar and Marion students a new and exciting avenue through which to engage in STEM learning.  Our partnership with MEDCO and its network of community professionals will be invaluable in preparing students for future careers, problems, and solutions.” 

Mark Hutcheson, Director of High School Teaching and Learning, Director of Venture Academics

The STEM Council Executive Committee voted unanimously to award 22 new or expanded partnerships up to $25,000 each. Participating employer partners contribute to a dollar-for-dollar match with some going above and beyond the cost-share requirement. Linn-Mar’s Venture program was among those receiving the maximum grant. The awards can be used for curriculum development and coordination, educator training and development in workplace-classroom integration, and preparing the work-based learning environment.

The 2021 STEM BEST Program awardees are:

  • Ames Community School District
  • Don Bosco Catholic School System
  • CAM Community School District
  • Cedar Rapids Community School District – Thomas Jefferson High School
  • Cedar Rapids Community School District – Metro High School
  • Central Community School District
  • Clinton Community School District
  • Creston Community School District – Middle School
  • Creston Community School District – Elementary School
  • Earlham Community School District
  • Eastern Allamakee Community School District
  • Howard-Winneshiek Community School District
  • Keokuk Community & Fort Madison School Districts
  • Linn-Mar Community School District
  • MFL MarMac Community School District
  • MOC-Floyd Valley Community School District
  • North Tama County Community School District
  • Pella Community School District
  • Riverside Community School District
  • Sioux Center Community School District
  • Wapsie Valley Community School District
  • Woodbine Community School District


To be considered for a STEM BEST Program award, applicants were required to submit a comprehensive proposal that incorporates rigorous and relevant STEM curriculum, valuable partnerships with community businesses or organizations, real-world learning opportunities, and expertise at the post-secondary education and training level. These awardees will serve as a model to share unique perspectives, strengths, demographics, and program focus with other schools throughout Iowa.

Visit for more information on the STEM BEST Program and the 80 partners.