STEM Alliances Forge Community of Practice

STEM Ecosystems recently selected its first cohort — a group of 27 regional science, technology, engineering and math programs that will make up a community of practice with the hope of amplifying their work. Members will collaborate in piloting a national "STEM Ecosystems Initiative." In return, they'll receive grants, volunteer help through AmeriCorps and technical assistance.

The first in-person gathering of the group will take place in November at the White House. Each month, the community will also convene a virtual meeting.

The whole community is made up of a mix of pre-K-16 schools; community organizations running after-school and summer programs; institutions of higher education; STEM "experts," such as science centers, museums, corporations and non-profits; as well as businesses and funders. The roster is heavy on city-specific STEM programs, such as the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance, the Pittsburgh Regional STEM Ecosystem and the Great Lakes Bay Regional STEM Initiative. Participants will gain access to expert advice from education leaders, scientists and industry members.

The intent is that as these "STEM ecosystems" evolve, a student will be able to connect what they learn in and out of school with real-world learning opportunities, leading to STEM related careers and opportunities.

The work is being funded by the STEM Funders Network, a group of grantmakers such as the Noyce Foundation and the Samueli Foundation that emphasize interest in education and especially STEM coursework.

"These innovative communities are providing STEM learning opportunities for millions of young people both in- and out-of-school," said Network co-chairs Gerald Solomon, executive director at Samueli, and Ron Ottinger, executive director at Noyce. "It is an initiative to design the kind of infrastructure that ensures STEM learning is truly 'everywhere' and is a top priority for communities supporting youth to develop the skills and knowledge they need for success in a global workforce."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.