A recent working paper, written by Kathleen Traphagen & Saskia Traill and commissioned by the Noyce Foundation, describes the attributes and strategies of 15 leading STEM ecosystem efforts (see #13 & 14 below) throughout the country that include a cross-sector collaboration among formal K-12 education, after-school or summer programs, and/or some type of science-expert organization. STEM learning ecosystems harness unique contributions of educators, policymakers, families, and others in symbiosis toward a comprehensive vision of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education for all children.
The SMILE (Science and Math Integrated Learning Experiences) Program has been led by Oregon State University (OSU) for the past quarter century to increase post-secondary enrollment of underserved populations in the STEM fields. SMILE supports after-school clubs serving 650 students grades 4-12 in 35 schools in 13 rural communities throughout the state. Targeting low-income children of color, the clubs meet weekly and are led by 50 school-day science teachers. The SMILE Program has served more than 7,500 students and 365 teachers since its inception. Other components of SMILE include exposure to higher education through college connection events such as day-long trips to a regional college for elementary and middle school club members, an overnight High School Challenge at OSU, and annual Math and Science Family Nights at partner schools for students and their families. SMILE is funded by Oregon State University, local school districts, federal grants, charter schools, and private philanthropy.
The premise of SYNERGIES is that if one better understands how, when, where, why and with whom children access and use STEM resources across their lifetime, it will be possible to create a community-wide educational system that works more effectively and synergistically. The project has followed approximately 400 fifth graders from 2009 in the Parkrose neighborhood of Portland, along with their peers, siblings and significant adults in their lives. The first two years have been devoted to collecting baseline data and building community alliances, followed by continued data collection as well as community-wide “interventions” designed and executed by the community itself in years three and four. The project focuses on youth’s interest trajectories to determine how (physically and virtually) and why they utilize (formal and informal) community learning resources in order to engage with and learn about STEM. The community’s formal and informal STEM education providers, including Parkrose Public Schools, Multnomah County Library, Portland Zoo, 4H, Mount Hood Community College, Metro Parks, Portland Port Authority, Portland Children’s Museum, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, and other community-based organizations and businesses, are developing and testing a coordinated approach to facilitating STEM education. The long-term goal is to develop specific strategies and data-based tools to improve STEM learning in Parkrose that can be broadly applied to long-term improvements in STEM public education locally, nationally and internationally. The SYNERGIES project is funded by the Noyce Foundation.