By Stephanie Levi, Ph.D
On Tuesday, May 12, 2015, the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (aka “The Coop”) and Project Exploration were honored to host special guests as a part of the Chicago Community Trust’s “On the Table” event across Chicago. Gerald Solomon, Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation, and Jan Morrison, CEO of Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM Education, joined members of the Coop for an inspiring conversation about STEM Learning Ecosystems in cities across the nation.
Attendees representing Chicago’s funding, STEM education, and STEM OST organizations learned about the attributes, strategies, and approaches of successful STEM Learning Ecosystems from Mr. Samueli. According to his presentation, STEM Learning Ecosystems connect students, families, educators, corporations, cultural institutions, funders, and policy makers in citywide networks that support high-quality STEM learning. What makes these ecosystems unique is that the high level of coordination, shared mission and vision, and shared outcomes among stakeholders enables cities to work in a directed, intentional fashion to move the needle on student success and access to STEM – with all stakeholders, and the city at large, benefiting as a result.
Mr. Solomon introduced the group to a STEM ecosystem development effort designed to promote the cultivation of emerging and existing cross-sector collaborations in the development of STEM Learning Ecosystems in communities across the country.
Following the presentation, participants engaged in a discussion about how these approaches may be implemented in Chicago, identifying aspects of other cities’ STEM ecosystems that may prove fruitful in Chicago, and made plans to convene a larger group of interested stakeholders to learn more about STEM Ecosystem Learning models in cities across the nation, introduce the Samueli Foundation ecosystem development program as an opportunity in Chicago, and refine the mission and vision of Chicago’s own STEM Learning Ecosystem – the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative. The discussion was focused, productive, inspiring, and succeeded in gathering people who wish to improve Chicago’s present and future by coordinating the efforts of all who contribute to STEM learning in Chicago.
More About the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative
The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative began as a collaborative effort between STEM educators, STEM out-of-school time (OST) program providers, civic leaders, higher education representatives, and funders to perform a landscape scan of STEM in OST across the city, which was shared in a report detailing a wide array of data that provided valuable insight into where, when, how, and for whom STEM in OST happens in the city. (Read the report here.) The study yielded a number of crucial insights, including geographical areas underserved by STEM in OST, underrepresented populations in Chicago’s STEM OST programs, and engineering as a vastly underrepresented field in Chicago’s STEM OST. These data directed the STEM OST community to action, and the report posed several critical questions intended to inspire further work and build Chicago’s STEM Learning Ecosystem further.