WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) — Iowa teachers are learning new lessons as they spend the summer working at state parks, high-tech companies, research labs and other places as part of a program organized by the governor's STEM Advisory Council.

Meghan Reynolds, the externship project coordinator with the council, told the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier that more than 60 teachers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math are participating this year.

Almost 430 teachers have participated since the program began.

"The big picture of the externship program is to give teachers exposure to what's happening in the, quote, 'real world,'" said Reynolds.

Teachers can then use their experience to better prepare students to enter Iowa's workforce in the future, she said.

Teachers receive a stipend and earn graduate credit if they're accepted into the program, which is in its ninth year.

Melisa Reilly is a West High School geology teacher and Mandy Gleiter is a biology and chemistry teacher at Jesup High School. They have a six week externship at George Wyth State Park where they're working on cutting down saplings in a clearing near the lake.

"The hope is to plant this whole area to be a pollinator garden," Gleiter said.

Once the area is cleared, the native prairie plants will be able to attract insects such as butterflies and bees to pollinate the flowers.

"Although we're cutting down trees, we're going to greatly increase the biodiversity," Reilly said.

The program is supported by state-appropriated funds, an Iowa Department of Natural Resources grant and investments from state business and industry leaders.

Between 40 to 50 businesses including manufacturing facilities, high-tech companies, research labs, accounting firms and county conservations agencies provide externships.

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Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, http://www.wcfcourier.com