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.
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.
For Chicago, responding to the Request for Qualifications proved to be a galvanizing, vision-honing exercise that brought individuals, organizations, and sectors further together. The application process was led by Project Exploration, and provided the opportunity to hone the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative’s mission and vision, engage new and existing stakeholders, and better define the needs, opportunities, and challenges of Chicago’s STEM Learning Ecosystem.
Within Chicago, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations have joined this effort as Partner Agencies, which will meet monthly to support the larger efforts of coordinating Chicago’s STEM learning ecosystem. To date, these organizations include:
- The Albert Pick Jr. Fund
- The Brinson Foundation
- Chicago Architecture Foundation
- The Chicago Botanic Garden
- Digital Youth Network
- Educational Development Center, Inc.
- The Field Museum
- Hive Chicago
- Illinois Math and Science Academy
- Motorola Solutions Foundation
- Project Exploration
- The Shedd Aquarium
The first meeting of this group of supporters and leaders will be held in September 2015.
As a selected ecosystem, The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative will receive ongoing technical support, regular meetings with representatives from other cities, and will be hosted at a kick-off meeting at the White House in November. Additionally, the work will be ongoing in Chicago, with regular convenings, data gathering, and community building as the year progresses. Ultimately, the work of the STEM Learning Ecosystems cohort will inform the STEM education field about creating connected STEM-rich learning opportunities for youth and families across the educational continuum throughout the educational lifespan of individuals – which is lifelong.
“These innovative communities are providing STEM learning opportunities for millions of young people both in- and out-of-school,” said SFN co-chairs Gerald Solomon, executive director, Samueli Foundation, and Ron Ottinger, executive director, Noyce Foundation in a press release. “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.”
“We are thrilled that Chicago has been selected to be a part of the STEM Ecosystem Community of Practice,” says Mike Cassel, director, Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship, Great Lakes Region. “At Boeing, we work towards a future where all students have access to learning so that they can develop their skills, do what they dream and build something better. This endeavor will provide opportunities that expose students to STEM subjects and experiences that will give them the ability to apply this knowledge in real and relevant ways.”
Any individual or organization contributing to STEM learning in the city of Chicago is a member of the STEM Learning Ecosystem, and all are welcome and encouraged to participate in this work. Please contact us to get involved.