STEM learning opportunities are like charging stations. Youth who plug in at school and in many places across their communities become engaged, inspired and knowledgeable about science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We know this is critically important, because if we want young people to discover their passions and persist in the STEM fields, it’s not enough to do a little here and little there. Multiple, connected experiences are necessary.
But here’s the problem: in many communities, youth simply can’t plug in. There just aren’t enough charging stations and the connections are spotty and unreliable. We need to charge up the STEM learning power grid, fill in the missing connections and plug everyone into STEM learning. This is the role of STEM Next, which launched today at the University of San Diego.
STEM Next will work to “keep science, technology, engineering and mathematics fun and alive for all youth to solve the nation’s and world’s greatest challenges.” STEM Next is boosting the energy and capacity of leaders in schools, afterschool and summer programs, youth centers, science museums, libraries, universities and businesses to expand STEM learning opportunities for young people:
- In 27 communities across the country, STEM Learning Ecosystems are catalyzing establishing new cross-sector partnerships so that kids everywhere access many opportunities for hands-on discovery and skill-building.
- Imagine Science is bringing together national youth development organizations that collectively reach 18 million young people every year and challenging them to reach young people who currently have little to no access to high-quality STEM learning out of school.
- Statewide afterschool networks are taking the lead in expanding and improving STEM opportunities after school and in the summer for all kids. The networks have collectively leveraged more than $1.6 million in public and private support to bolster their efforts and catalyzed new involvement from philanthropists, corporate partners and state policymakers.
At STEM Next we believe the key to developing future leaders who are critical thinkers and problem-solvers is to provide lots of high quality, varied opportunities for young people to work through interesting and practical challenges using STEM methods, tools and ways of thinking. We are excited to share with all kids the power and joy of STEM learning. Going forward, we will be:
- A champion for STEM Learning, making the case for STEM learning and systems with evidence, best practice and smart communications.
- A broker for cross-sector collaboration, providing support for leaders to assess gaps, identify partners, determine collective goals and power up their communities for STEM learning.
- A system-builder for STEM learning, by supporting powerful partnerships, policy reform, professional development and evaluation of student outcomes to make programs strong, plentiful and accessible to all.
- A catalyst for investments in STEM learning, by leading the public and private funding communities to direct investments where they are needed most and where they will make the most difference.
STEM Next is supported by a generous gift from the Noyce Foundation, which sunsetted at the end of 2015. The Noyce Foundation’s former Executive Director Ron Ottinger is leading STEM Next and continuing Noyce’s pioneering work in building the field of informal STEM education.
We’d like to introduce the rest of the STEM Next team:
- Teresa Drew, is the new Assistant Director;
- Sandi Callahan, joins us from the Noyce Foundation as executive assistant;
- Kathleen Traphagen will be in charge of communications; and
- Cary Sneider will continue as lead science consultant.
Join the STEM Next movement! Sign up now at: http://stemnext.org/about-stem-next/