Community of Practice

Community of Practice

In September 2015, the STEM Funders Network announced their selection of 27 communities to pilot the national STEM Ecosystems Initiative. In May 2016, the STEM FundersNetwork announced the addition of ten ecosystem communities to join the national STEM Ecosystems Initiative. This initiative, built on over a decade of research into successful STEM collaborations, seeks to nurture and scale effective STEM learning opportunities for all young people. The selected sites from across the United States have demonstrated cross-sector collaborations to deliver rigorous, effective preK-16 instruction in STEM learning.

What is a Community of Practice?

A community of practice is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do, and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

The theoretical community of practice framework is based on the work of Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner.  Seven principles outlined by Wenger-Trayner[1] guide the cultivation of the STEM Learning Ecosystem.

  • Design for Evolution
  • Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives
  • Invite different levels of participation
  • Develop both public and private community spaces
  • Focus on value
  • Combine familiar and excitement
  • Create a rhythm for the community.

[1]  Wenger, E., McDermott, R. and Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.


37 STEM Learning Ecosystems make up the Community of Practice.

Community of Practice

Arizona SciTech Ecosystem (Phoenix, AZ)

Over the past 5 years, Arizona SciTech has developed one of the nation’s largest celebrations of STEM with 1000+ events throughout Arizona. Developing events that are sustainable, local and culturally responsive, Arizona SciTech has established 20 regional STEM Ecosystems in rural and urban settings that serve as an accessible entry point for diverse stakeholders from education, community, government and industry to co-develop a regional SciTech Festival. Entering its 5th season, aligning with the STEM Ecosystems Initiative will afford Arizona SciTech an important opportunity to join a like minded national community of practice, enhance, refine and validate existing efforts through technical assistance, co-develop new and transformative initiatives such as the Chief Science Officers and contribute lessons learned to national partners.

Bay Area STEM Ecosystem (South San Francisco, CA)

The Bay Area STEM Ecosystem focuses on increasing equity and access to high quality STEM experiences for all young people in South San Francisco so as to ensure that youth have the background needed to enter the 21st century workforce. The Bay Area Ecosystem supports cross sector collaborations between informal STEM organizations, city agencies, school districts, community based organizations, and industry. Our steering partners include: California Academy of Sciences, Broadcom Foundation, Genentech, and City of South San Francisco Community Learning Center. As our Ecosystem grows and develops, we plan on expanding the reach of this work to surrounding Bay Area communities. For more information please contact Katie Levedahl,

Bmore STEM (Baltimore, MD)

BmoreSTEM is a citywide, ecosystem initiative where local industry, philanthropists, educators, and program providers collaborate to create STEM learning experiences and career pathways for Baltimore’s youth. Baltimore is rich in STEM resources and experiences for youth of all ages. Whether it be camps, workshops, competitions, or events, STEM is happening everywhere.

BoSTEM (Boston, MA)

BoSTEM aims to ensure 100% of Boston’s middle school students have the opportunity to participate in expanded STEM learning experiences.  These experiences are hands-on learning opportunities involving corporate volunteers, teachers and nonprofit staff that give students the chance to apply math and science skills in exciting, real-world contexts through a combination of activities in both school and out-of-school settings. Today, these hands-on STEM learning opportunities are only available to 6% of Boston students through out-of-school time programming.  A partnership between Boston Public Schools (BPS), Citizens Schools, Boston After School & Beyond and United Way, BoSTEM hopes to reach 10,000 BPS middle school students on an annual basis by 2020, providing them all STEM experiences that pique their interest in the STEM fields.

Carbon/Schuylkill/Luzerne Counties Ecosystem (Schnecksville, PA)

Located in rural Carbon and Schuylkill Counties, SHINE, established in 2005, is a successful STEM Learning Ecosystem that developed a rural community’s grassroots plan into a seamless network of education services.  A total of 15 SHINE Sites are working with a diverse set of partners to provide a rich variety of STEM learning opportunities to children of every age.

 Central NM STEM-H Education Hub (Albuquerque, NM)

The Central New Mexico STEM-H Education Hub’s partners improve STEM experiences and learning in New Mexico through a variety of different methods, including: school-based STEM programs; professional development programs for teachers, pre-service teachers, librarians, out-of- school-time providers, and early childhood educators; internships for middle school, high school, and college students; programs for STEM professionals, like working scientists and engineers; out-of-school-time STEM experiences for children and families; science center and museum exhibits; professional development for informal science education institution staff; mentoring experiences for youth; STEM fairs and festivals; and Maker activities with local business and industry; and STEM network collaboration and facilitation.

 Central Oklahoma Regional STEM Alliance (Oklahoma City, OK)

COSTEMA’s mission is to inspire students from elementary through high school in the Greater Oklahoma City region through purposeful project-based experiences to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We accomplish our mission by partnering with education organizations, public schools, industry representatives, higher education organizations, career and technical schools, and community based organizations to develop purposeful educational experiences for K-12 students lacking access to STEM education. Our goal includes constructing STEM education programs anchored in innovative, replicable instructional models by incorporating best practices for implementing, assessing, and improving existing programs in order to foster an exceptional workforce which will grow and sustain the economy of Oklahoma.

Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (Chicago, IL)

The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative is a citywide effort to improve, identify, and connect opportunities for STEM learning for children and youth in the city of Chicago from cradle to career, regardless of ability or background. Ultimately, informed by shared data, the Cooperative aspires to build instructional leadership amongst partners, ensure access to STEM opportunities for all Chicago young people, and improve quality across programmatic settings. The Cooperative has cross-sector commitment from diverse stakeholders including: the Chicago Public School system; afterschool, out-of-school time, and summer programs; STEM-focused community institutions including museums and science; institutions of higher education; STEM professional associations; private sector STEM-focused companies; and philanthropic foundations.

Colorado STEM (Denver, CO)

Colorado STEM is the statewide public-private effort to advance STEM education and opportunities for all Colorado learners in ways that meet company needs. Colorado STEM is a P-20 and workforce effort invested in implementation of the state plan to advance STEM education, the Colorado STEM Education Roadmap. The Colorado Education Initiative (CEI) is the backbone organization incubating Colorado STEM. CEI is a nonprofit focused on advancing K-12 public education.

DC STEM Network (Washington, DC)

The DC STEM Network is a collaboration between the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) and the Carnegie Academy for Science Education (CASE), launched in 2014. The DC STEM Network unites community partners to help inspire and prepare all DC youth to succeed, lead and innovate in STEM fields and beyond.

East Syracuse Minoa Central School District STEM Learning Ecosystem (East Syracuse, NY)

The East Syracuse Minoa Central School District (ESM) vision to prepare graduates to excel in this complex, interconnected, changing world is realized through the District’s Strategic Plan. During the past five years, ESM, in partnership with families, local and national businesses, higher education and cultural institutions, museums, government agencies and not for profit organizations (NPO’s) has forged relationships in developing a STEM Learning Ecosystem with innovative learning designs that are aligned with STEM college and career pathways. These synergizing relationships have cultivated cross-sector partnerships and expanded the boundaries of learning for student success in college, career and life.

Twitter: @ESMSchoolDist

ecosySTEM KC (Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS)

KC STEM Alliance, Kansas Enrichment Network, Mid-America Regional Council and Science Pioneers, serving as the lead agencies along with 23 other community STEM organizations and business partners, are responsible for engaging the community in the ecosySTEM KC initiative.  They will gather additional STEM partners to work with students, educators and families in two urban school districts – Kansas City Public Schools and Kansas City Kansas Public Schools. Kansas City offers a vibrant, active and growing STEM community providing activities and educational opportunities across the area. Many STEM-related organizations already work together well, however a system-wide, seamless structure is yet to evolve. The ecosySTEM KC learning network provides opportunities to establish a clear vision, uniform collaboration and shared outcomes that can be replicated, sustained and be accessible by all youth.

EvanSTEM (Evanston, IL)

Given that there are approximately 4,000 under-performing and under-represented K-12 students in Evanston’s public schools, the focus of the LENSE is to: (1) Understand how Evanston youth (particularly low-income students) navigate through available out-of school STEM opportunities and how those STEM programs impact academic success using evaluation, long-term youth tracking, and regular meeting of STEM providers; (2) Build new collaborations between teachers, out-of-school providers, and STEM professionals, resulting in novel curricula and activities that extend and enrich classroom and out-of-school learning; and (3) Expand the capacity of STEM educators – both in the classroom and in out-of-school settings-to ensure the targeted populations have access to and are engaged in successful programs.

Northeast Florida STEM Hub (Jacksonville, FL)

The Northeast Florida Regional STEM2Hub (The STEM2 Hub) is a not-for-profit entity solely dedicated to accelerating the growth of STEM2 initiatives (and measured outcomes) in the Northeast Florida region. We convene, inspire, and invest in the STEM2 field by providing the essential missing elements to accelerate the growth of STEM2education and careers.

Great Lakes Bay Regional STEM Initiative (Freeland, MI)

The Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance (GLBRA), a consortium of business, education, and community interests, recognized that the future vitality of its economy was dependent on developing a STEM Talent Pipeline. The STEM Impact Initiative was launched in the Spring of 2014 when GLBRA contracted with Accenture and Innovate+Educate to develop a comprehensive analysis of STEM in the region and develop a strategy with specific recommendations. The final report – entitled “Building a Robust STEM Talent Pipeline in the Great Lakes Bay Region” – identified four sets of key requirements for a high-performing STEM region: • Driven by Employer Demand
• Powered by Career and College Ready Students
• Focused on Strengthening Technical Skills Needed for the Economy
• Sustained by a Culture of STEM.

Greater Austin STEM Ecosystem (Austin, TX)

The Greater Austin STEM Ecosystem will be designed to maximize STEM opportunities for K-12 students to access high-quality STEM learning experiences in multiple settings. We will convene participants to create a dynamic network of high quality resources that engage learners in opportunities leading to a STEM-capable 21st century workforce. We will put systems in place to support education programs that are engaging, responsive, and create a pathway of opportunities.

Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (Cincinnati, OH)

Greater Cincinnati’s STEM ecosystem was launched by Procter & Gamble and the Strive Partnership (KnowledgeWorks subsidiary) in July, 2011 in response to the accelerating demand for STEM jobs in the greater Cincinnati region. Our ecosystem is led by the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (GCSC), which brings education, community and business partners together to create hands-on, real life, and relevant learning experiences for students. These authentic experiences are proven to grow student interest in and confidence to pursue STEM careers. Our vision is that the Greater Cincinnati, tri-state region has the most robust STEM talent pipeline in the country which is also representative and inclusive of the region’s population.


Indiana STEM Ecosystem Initiative (Indianapolis, IN)

Indiana has a highly collaborative, cross-sector environment to advance STEM learning during and beyond school hours. Our STEM ecosystem includes more than 200 influential leaders, representing business, K-12 and higher education, youth programs, cultural institutions, government and more collaborating toward a shared vision to expand STEM and career skills for Indiana’s K-12 youth. The Indiana Afterschool Network and our partners will expand our partnerships and resources at state and regional levels, equip more K-12 educators with STEM and career-readiness knowledge, and increase youth access to high quality STEM learning opportunities during and beyond school hours.

Twitter: @INafterschool

Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership in Western New York (Buffalo, NY)

The Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP) is led by the University at Buffalo (UB), SUNY, with core partners the Buffalo Public Schools (BPS), SUNY Buffalo State College (BSC) and the Buffalo Museum of Science. ISEP focuses on critical middle school experiences of students in science and engineering and their transition to high school. The project uses an innovative approach to teacher professional development among high-needs urban schools. ISEP also focuses mentoring and Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to connect all participants. PLCs cultivate mentoring between BPS teachers, students and parents, university faculty, professionals, graduate and service-learning undergraduate students.

Lancaster County STEM Alliance (Lancaster, PA)

As a hub for STEM Literacy and experiential learning, Lancaster County will attract and retain visionary job creators, inspire learners of all ages to achieve academic excellence, and engage all its citizenry in building a prosperous future.

North Louisiana STEM Alliance (Shreveport, LA)

The North Louisiana STEM Alliance is made up of Sci-Port Discovery Center, the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, Shreve Memorial Library, R.W. Norton Art Gallery, Starbase Louisiana, Volunteers of America North Louisiana, Coalition of Out of School Time Services (COSTS), Community Foundation of North Louisiana, Step Forward, Bossier Parish Public Schools, Caddo Parish Public Schools, Alt3D Tech, Capital One Bank, Cohab, U.S. Forest Service, Cyber Innovation Center, Children&Families – LA Center, Learning RX of Shreveport-Bossier, Homeschool Helpers, Bossier Parish Community College and Centenary College.

The initiative focuses on bringing all learning platforms together, from PreK through higher education, including the workforce, to ensure all people have equal access and opportunity to succeed in the STEM fields.

Los Angeles Regional STEM Hub (Los Angeles, CA)

The Los Angeles Regional STEM Hub seeks to connect the region’s leading professionals and educators in an effort to expand student access to high-quality STEM learning, including critical thinking and the arts (STEAM), education and provide sustainable models for 21st century workforce and skills development. The Hub seeks to leverage Los Angeles’ resources and significant civic institutions to develop further capacity for system wide transformation of STEM education. By bringing together groups utilizing a collective impact model across the public, private, nonprofit and academic sectors, we’re working to align our education systems towards student success.

NC STEM Ecosystem: Driving the Future (Research Triangle Park, NC)

NC STEM Ecosystem: Driving the Future is a collaborative effort focused initially on eastern NC with support from the NC Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education Center, the NC STEM Learning Network and other STEM organizations and school districts.  Based on the foundation of the NC STEM Learning Network, the NC STEM Ecosystem plans to nurture, enable, and encourage STEM education projects in rural eastern North Carolina. The NC STEM Learning Network helps ensure that all North Carolina students are career and college ready by engaging in rigorous and relevant STEM education. NC STEM does this by guiding implementation of the state’s coordinated STEM Strategy to increase student achievement in STEM, creating greater public support for STEM education, and building the resources necessary to make North Carolina’s STEM education the best in the country. NC STEM has developed STEM Attributes and an Implementation Rubric to assist schools and programs to become a quality STEM school or program. A STEM portal provides access to STEM resources and a STEM Scorecard provides benchmarks for STEM in North Carolina.

Northeast Ohio STEM Learning Ecosystem (Cleveland, OH)

The Northeast Ohio STEM Learning Ecosystem is building on a positive momentum of change we see in Cleveland and its surrounding region. Our ecosystem is an emerging practice but we are building upon a number of successful education collaborations. Our committed ecosystem partners includes schools, corporations, non-profit start ups, afterschool providers, local funders, universities, and STEM-expert organizations such as science centers and other types of museums. We recognize the need to address a set of pressing questions that will refine the make up and goals of our effort. Most of all, we share a belief in the resilience of our community and the great need for equitable access to high-quality STEM experiences for all learners.

NYC STEM Education Network (New York, NY)

The NYC STEM Education Network builds on a strong collaboration of city agencies, youth development and education-focused organizations, museums and cultural institutions, higher education institutions, and long-term private funders. The Network has developed cross-sector collaborations to make the city’s rich array of STEM learning opportunities more accessible to young people and to build the capacity of after-school programs to deliver STEM. The Network creates links to other sub-components of our city’s STEM ecosystem, such as NYC Urban Advantage, the NYC Hive Network, Queens 2020 and the STEM Educators Academy.

 Omaha STEM Ecosystem (Omaha, NE)

The Omaha STEM Ecosystem envisions a community where all young people, especially those underrepresented in STEM industries, will have the opportunities needed to be successful in learning scientific thinking, examining potential career paths, and exploring opportunities to extend their educational achievements. We believe our vision will be supported by Omaha’s robust academic and business community, which will join in providing hands-on learning and internship opportunities to enhance STEM educational experiences.

Orange County STEM Initiative (Corona Del Mar, CA)

The Orange County STEM Initiative (OC STEM) is a growing network of Orange County funders who actively collaborate with community stakeholders to support and promote high quality Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics education in Orange County, CA. OC STEM provides professional development, student programs, a workforce development platform and communication on STEM education to help improve outcomes for STEM programs in Early Learning/Preschool, K-12, after school, informal science centers and expanded learning programs throughout the region. One of OC STEM’s overarching goals is to create 27 community STEM Ecosystems in Orange County which will allow this collaborative concept to grow up from the grass-roots level and have a direct impact on students.

Oregon’s Statewide Regional STEM Hub Network (Salem, OR)

Oregon’s Statewide Regional STEM Hub Network is a large-scale ecosystem that embraces the notion that education is a collective responsibility and that learning takes place throughout one’s life in all manner of settings and interactions. Oregon has invested in the establishment and support of a network of regional collective impact partnerships that bring together local leaders and programs from K-12, post-secondary, out-of-school programs, business & industry, workforce, economic development, civic leaders, community-based organizations, STEM-rich institutions and families.

Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem (Philadelphia, PA)

Philadelphia is city rich in STEM resources that include employers, museums and educational centers, innovative out-of-school time programs, strong in-school teachers, and a broad network of institutions of higher education. Still, many students leave school unprepared for their next steps. The goal of the Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem is to empower students to trust their questions, think analytically to solve problems, and succeed in STEM subjects. Through the collaboration of our partners we aim foster and build upon the successful STEM learning throughout the Philadelphia region.

Pittsburgh Regional STEM Ecosystem (Pittsburgh, PA)

The Pittsburgh Regional STEM Ecosystem seeks to understand the STEM learning landscape within a 5-county region surrounding the City of Pittsburgh. The partners within this initiative include the Remake Learning Council, Chevron U.S., Carnegie Science Center, Carnegie Mellon University, ASSET STEM Education, Public Education representatives, the YMCA, and Junior Achievement. Our region has strong partners and experts adept at STEM education programming, professional development, and business partnerships. We seek to develop a collaborative Regional Vision, Goals and Metrics for continuous improvement, based on an understanding of regional gaps targeted at underserved communities. We additionally, seek to articulate the youth STEM pathway between formal and informal experiences.

Providence After School Alliance (PASA) AfterZone STEM – FUSE Initiative (Providence, RI)

The Providence After School Alliance’s STEM Ecosystem consists of a team of informal community educators, middle school math and science teachers, district curriculum heads, STEM related businesses serving on PASA’s Business Engagement committee, the Rhode Island STEM Center, faculty from RI College’s School of Education, and faculty from the University of Rhode Island. The primary focus of our STEM Ecosystem is to help improve STEM inquiry practices in Providence’s middle school summer STEM program and transfer lessons learned to PASA’s middle and high school after school systems.

Queens 2020 (Corona, NY)

Queens 2020 is a community-based STEM Learning Ecosystem dedicated to transforming STEM learning opportunities and outcomes for young people. This model initiative will be co-designed with educational and community leaders from our local community, and will involve a multifaceted program of work that engages children and their families in creative STEM learning, develops STEM resources for teachers and students in schools, builds out-of-school STEM opportunities that respond to community needs, and supports meaningful STEM learning opportunities for high school and college students. Queens 2020 brings together a diverse set of partners who are invested in a shared vision for STEM learning.

San Diego EcosySTEM (San Diego, CA)

San Diego is well-known for its STEM-rich community. The San Diego EcosySTEM will mobilize new and existing stakeholders to collaborate across sectors so that youth will experience connected STEM learning. We will capitalize on the strong foundation that we have built throughout the community, strengthen our efforts, and build our momentum. The partners in San Diego EcosySTEM will work collaboratively to strengthen our STEM network, connect discrete STEM learning networks, map STEM assets in the San Diego Region, and share and implement the previously developed STEM Quality Criteria Rubric.

 STEM Guides Downeast (Machias, ME)

The goal of the project is to substantially increase participation of rural youth aged 10-18 in STEM activities and to nurture their passion for STEM, primarily in out-of-school settings.

Tampa Bay STEM Network (Tampa, FL)

The goal of the Tampa Bay STEM Network is to directly impact underprivileged and underrepresented youth through a formal network with agreed upon goals and deliverables, which include, but are not limited to: access to and success within a PK-16 STEM pipeline for students and onboarding/expansion plan for the network to include other existing and new partners. Ultimately the Tampa Bay STEM Network strives to create an educational ecosystem with a high profile and recognizable name, mission, and vision which will assist the Tampa Bay area in becoming a nationally recognized hub for innovation and technology. This will lead to an increase in the overall health of the local STEM community and provide rich opportunities for HCPS students as they graduate school.

Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance (Tulsa, OK)

In 2013, the Oklahoma Innovation Institute (a 501c3 organization founded in 2006) launched the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance (TRSA). Today, TRSA is a dynamic mesh network of business, higher education, K-12, philanthropy, government, and community organizations focused on building broad, deep, and innovative pathways for students to access high-impact STEM careers. TRSA is a neutral convener and facilitator of a collaborative alliance of more than 80+ partner organizations. TRSA accomplishes its mission through transformational work in communication, collaboration, cultivation, and calculation of STEM education work.

Ventura County STEM Network (Ventura County, CA)

The leaders of the Ventura County STEM (VC STEM) ecosystem reflect the roots of this diverse agricultural community. They can be described as essential: salt of the earth, modest and unendingly hard working. This community has historically been an epicenter for STEM-related endeavors (oil industry, biotechnology, agricultural innovations, and manufacturing) with key industries that are primed for traditional and non-traditional career pathways.  We bring our community culture of collaboration and innovation and seek to intentionally learn fast by learning together.  Ventura County is a natural fit to become a hub of innovation in STEM teaching and learning. VC STEM’s vision is that all P-20 students in Ventura County benefit from high-quality STEM learning opportunities, graduate with the STEM knowledge, skills, and applied learning capabilities necessary for success in STEM and non-STEM college education and careers, and possess the STEM knowledge, skills and awareness to positively impact our region, nation and the world.