Overview & History

What is The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative?

The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (the Coop) is a collaborative effort aimed at increasing youth and family access to quality STEM experiences in both formal and informal settings, from cradle to career.  The Coop represents a variety of ongoing efforts to improve and elaborate opportunities for STEM learning for all in the city of Chicago, regardless of ability or background, from cradle to career. The Cooperative represents sectors throughout the city, including STEM-rich civic institutions, STEM OST program providers, formal K-12 education institutions, colleges and universities, STEM corporations and business industry leaders, funders, policy makers and government entities, and existing learning networks.

Members of the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative specifically work to improve the coordination of STEM learning, striving to ensure pathways for integrated and progressive STEM experiences extending from early childhood to adulthood.  After several years of successful work to document and improve the STEM learning landscape in Chicago, the Cooperative is beginning work to strategically coordinate STEM learning throughout the city by further developing Chicago’s STEM learning ecosystem.


The Chicago STEM Cooperative began in 2011 as a community-based effort to survey out-of-school-time programs and consider the way educational institutions, businesses and city services could cooperate to build and support pathways into science, technology, engineering and mathematics for Chicago’s young people.

The premise of this work was based upon the belief that young people need meaningful experiences with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)  in order to become critical and collaborative thinkers.  Without an intentional plan for how young people will get – and stay – involved with STEM the status quo will remain the same:

  • Chicago’s young people will fail to experience the wonders of discovery or fully explore the world around them;
  • Chicago student achievement in STEM in school will remain sub-par;
  • African Americans, Latinos and girls will remain significantly underrepresented in STEM in out of school time programming, college majors and in careers;
  • Investment by funders and policy-makers  in STEM education efforts will lack systemic impact;
  • Area companies will not have the local talent pool they need.

To date, the Coop has:

1) Gathered and analyzed data about what kinds of STEM opportunities are available in Chicago in out of school time;

2) Developed a set of recommendations and an action plan for what it will take make it easy for young people to get- and stay – involved with STEM experiences from kindergarten through college and;

3) Brought folks together to figure out how we could put the plan to work, including funders, policy makers, corporate stakeholders, civic and cultural institutions, STEM out-of-school time (OST) providers, school and institutions of higher education.