A group of Japanese professors and educators are in Iowa today to learn about the state's initiative to persuade more students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).


Led by Yoshisuke Kumano, professor of science education at Shizuoka University and president of the Japan Association of Energy and Environmental Education, the six educators are in the middle of a three-day trip to the state to see the Governor's STEM Advisory Council in action. The goal is to take lessons learned and potentially apply them to a similar STEM initiative in Japan.


The group arrived on Thursday and leaves tomorrow morning. Yesterday, they went into Iowa City schools to talk with teachers and students and visited the University of Iowa, where they will make a return trip today. Also on the agenda is a trip to the Iowa Children's Museum in Coralville, whose executive director, Deborah Dunkhase, is a STEM council member.


The delegation chose Iowa in part because of the state's success with its STEM initiative and in part because Kumano has a personal relationship with University of Iowa science professor Robert Yager.


Jeff Weld, executive director of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council, said the delegation has seemed particularly interested in the programs that the council has been able to implement. His advice to Kumano: Get the right leaders in the room. That will get the ball rolling.


"I think the major takeaway here is the collaborative spirit," Weld said. "There's the business sector and workforce development and museum directors and librarians and K-12 teachers and parents. They're all in a room together. ... That's the takeaway I think they'll take from Iowa: to get this done and to be systematic about it, you have to have all these voices contributing."


Iowa is one of three destinations in the delegation's trip to the United States. Other visits include the University of Minnesota and Washington, D.C.


Weld said he's heard from a number of other states that have inquired about Iowa's success so far with the 2 1/2-year-old STEM initiative, including Indiana, Washington and Wisconsin this week. But this trip is a "remarkable feather in our cap."


"To get an international guest peeking in on Iowa's STEM initiative is just further evidence that we're doing a lot of things right together," he said.