Resources from the Inaugural Afterschool STEM Summit

Project Exploration’s executive director Natasha Smith-Walker attended the inaugural Afterschool STEM Summit, September 28-29 in Washington, D.C. Sponsored by Time Warner Cable, the Noyce Foundation, and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Summit featured several panel discussions and working sessions. As part of the event, the Afterschool Alliance released a new report, Full STEM Ahead: Afterschool Programs Step Up as Key Partners in STEM Educationand announced the launch of the new Afterschool STEM Hub website ( These resources join the growing body of research around STEM that will be critical in the work of the Coop and peers in STEM Ecosystem Community of Practice.

Coop Joins National STEM Ecosystem Community of Practice

On September 1, 2015, the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative was notified that it will join the first cohort of the STEM Funders Network’s STEM Learning Ecosystems initiative. Over 70 applications were reviewed, and 27 cities were selected across the nation.

Ecosystem progression The STEM Learning Ecosystems initiative aims to cultivate a national community of practice,  consisting of cities that have STEM learning ecosystems in various stages of development. These cities will develop and share best practices, cultivate strategies for nurturing, measuring, and building city-wide STEM ecosystems, and individually further the work of each city’s ecosystem. Like other cities in the initial cohort, Chicago demonstrated that there already rigorous cross-sector collaborations occuring across school settings, out-of-school time learning programs, funders, policy makers, the business community, institutions of higher education, civic and cultural institutions, researchers, and of course, youth and families.

Continue reading

New Report: Best Practices in Building Afterschool Systems

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 2.02.10 PMA new report published by the Wallace Foundation provides useful information for all of us who are working to build a citywide STEM ecosystem.  The report, “Growing Together, Learning Together” highlights best practices, essential elements of healthy afterschool systems, considerations for choosing data management systems, and examples from various cities.

The four key elements that exist uniformly across successful afterschool networks include:

Continue reading

Update: RFQ Submitted!

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 1.28.00 PMWe are pleased to report that the STEM Funders Network STEM Learning Ecosystems RFQ has been submitted.  On behalf of Project Exploration, the Partner Agencies who have stepped up to guide this work, your fellow ecosystem members, and – most importantly – the young people who will experience richer STEM access and opportunities in the city of Chicago – thank you!

Continue reading

What We’re Learning

The sector-wide conversations are complete, and we’ve analyzed our pre-survey data (responses are being collected on a rolling basis, even after the RFQ is submitted, so please fill it out today if you haven’t already!).

So many outstanding ideas came out of our sector-wide conversations – thanks to all who attended and participated in those!  Here is a sampling of what we’ve learned from our pre-survey data: Continue reading