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The Connection, STEM Ecosystem Newsletter, Volume 1, March 2016



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Welcome to the inaugural issue of The Connection! We hope this monthly newsletter will provide you with new ideas and resources to support your work cultivating STEM learning ecosystems in your communities. Please share ideas and news for inclusion with ktraphagen@stemnext.org.


Computer Science for All: The White House also recently launched Computer Science for All to expand opportunities for young people to learn computer science (CS). In addition to new initiatives proposed in the budget, there are several actions slated to happen this year with existing funding, including $135 million in Computer Science funding to become available starting this year from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Corporation for National And Community Service (CNCS). Click here for the White House fact sheet.White House

First Jobs Initiative: President Obama’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal aims to provide $5.5 billion dollars to connect young people with their first jobs. As part of this initiative a new Department of Labor grant competition opened February 4, which will award up to $2 million each to 10 local workforce development boards to expand existing summer jobs programs into year-round employment, career pathway and work experience programs for eligible youth. The focus is on young people, both in-school and out-of-school, ages 16 to 24, who have limited or no work experience. Click here for the Career Pathways for Youth funding announcement. Deadline March 24. For more information about the First Jobs Initiative, click here.


February 29 – March 4, 2016: Association for Career & Technical Education (ACTE) National Policy Seminar, Arlington, VA

The ACTE National Policy Seminar provides participants with advocacy tips and tools to promote their programs at the local, state, and federal levels. Participants will meet with members of Congress to share state-specific success stories and CTE programming needs. Register here.

March 2-4, 2016: International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) Conference, Washington DC
ITEEA focuses on professional development for classroom teachers, supervisors, curriculum writers, and teacher educators who are interested in developing technological literacy. The 2016 theme is “Collaborating to Build a Diverse STEM-Literate Society”. Register here.

March 9-12, 2016: Beyond School Hours XIX, Dallas, TX
Strands include: Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners, Equipping Students for 21st Century College and Career Pathways, and Captivating Students through STEM, Literacy and More. Register.

March 14-15: STEM Ecosystems Community of Practice, Chicago, IL. The second CoP gathering of the 27 ecosystems communities. More information at info@stemecosystems.org

March 20-23, 2016: National Afterschool Association (NAA) Convention, Orlando, FL
Learning, networking and professional development for professionals working in and leading OST programs. Register.

March 31 – April 3, 2016: National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Conference, Nashville, TN
The NSTA offers the latest in science content, teaching strategy, and research to enhance and expand professional growth. This year’s theme is “Science: Empowering Performance”. The conference has four strands: Setting the Stage: Scientific Literacy, Building the Band: Involving Community Stakeholders, Harmonizing Concepts: Integrating Instruction, and Stringing it All Together: Three-Dimensional Learning. Gerald Solomon, ED of the Samueli Foundation, will present a session on ecosystems. Register.

April 11-14, 2016: National Summit for Educational Equity (NSEE), Alexandria, VA
The NSEE will bring together leaders in educational equity to build capacity, knowledge, and skills to transform education and improve student success. The 2016 theme is “Solving the Education Equation: Access, Equity, and Diversity.” Early bird registration ends February 29, 2016. Register.

May 18-20, 2016: U.S. News STEM Solutions 5th National Leadership Conference,  Baltimore, MD 

Focused on how we can teach, inspire and hire the workforce of tomorrow by building skills and increasing STEM diversity. The STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative will also announce Cohort 2 at the conference. Register.


Promising Practices for Strengthening the Regional STEM Workforce Development Ecosystem

This new report from the National Academy of Sciences reviews the extent to which universities and employers in 1five metropolitan communities (Phoenix, Arizona; Cleveland, Ohio; Montgomery, Alabama; Los Angeles, California; and Fargo, North Dakota) collaborate successfully to align curricula, labs, and other undergraduate educational experiences with current and prospective regional STEM workforce needs. This report focuses on how to create the kind of university-industry collaboration that promotes higher quality college and university course offerings, lab activities, applied learning experiences, work-based learning programs, and other activities that enable students to acquire knowledge, skills, and attributes they need to be successful in the STEM workforce. Written by the Committee on Improving Higher Education’s Responsiveness to STEM Workforce Needs: Identifying Analytical Tools and Regional Best Practices. This report was funded by the The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. To read the report, click here.

Science Teachers’ Learning: Enhancing Opportunities, Creating Supportive Contexts (2015)

A new National Academies report, Science Teachers’ Learning asserts that “an evolving understanding of how best 2to teach science, including the NGSS, represents a significant transition in the way science is currently taught in most classrooms and will require most science teachers to alter the way they teach.” The report provides guidance for schools and districts on how best to support teachers’ learning and how to implement successful programs for professional development. This report makes actionable recommendations for science teachers’ learning that take a broad view of what is known about science education, how and when teachers learn, and education policies that directly and indirectly shape what teachers are able to learn and teach. Published by the Board on Science Education, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Committee on Strengthening Science Education through a Teacher Learning Continuum. To read the report, click here.


Assessing the Impact of STEM Learning Ecosystems: Logic Model Template and Recommendations for Next Steps

Released in November 2015, this latest paper from the STEM ecosystems initiative focuses on how communities can3 measure the impact of cultivating ecosystems. The paper lays out the 4-strategy ecosystem framework and provides outcome examples for each strategy – 1) build cross-sector partnerships; 2) create/connect STEM-rich learning environments; 3) equip educators and 4) support youth pathways. The paper also offers a template for a logic model that ecosystem cultivators can adapt for their own use – and finally, provides questions to frame a research agenda and suggestions to meet the challenges of measuring population-level change over time. The March STEM Ecosystems Community of Practice meeting in Chicago will include a session delving into this paper and additional questions around measuring impact. Read the full paper, ex summary and download the logic model template here.

Business Aligning for Students: The Promise of Collective Impact

Allen Grossman and Ann Lombard of the Harvard Business School have released a new report: Business Aligning for Students: The Promise of Collective Impact, which is rich with lessons and ideas for STEM learning ecosystems 4seeking to expand business involvement. The report contains data from a survey of business leaders and collective impact initiatives and details the roles that business representatives are playing in CI initiatives. In addition to providing funding and asking others to fund the initiatives, business leaders are guiding vision and strategy, helping building public will and support, policy advocacy, garnering support from government leaders, and data gathering and analysis. Read a blog post about the report here.

Strengthening STEM in Expanded Learning Time Schools

The National Center on Time & Learning (NCTL) released a new report about its work with five expanded-time schools, each paired with a science-focused community-based organization, to embed new, imaginative STEM programming in a redesigned and expanded school day.  Each of the schools, which received a modest planning grant and technical assistance coaching from NCTL, have created their own program model and way of engaging students. Together, they enable over 1,200 students to participate in exciting, inquiry-based learning activities and projects that augment their interest in and knowledge about science and engineering.  The project was supported by the Noyce Foundation. Read the report here.

National Research Council: Successful Out-of-School STEM Learning

This summer, the National Research Council (NRC) released Identifying and Supporting Productive STEM 5Programs in Out-of-School Settings, identifying three criteria for programs to result in strong outcomes for students: 1) engage young people intellectually, academically, socially and emotionally, 2) respond to young people’s interests, experiences and cultural practices, and 3) connect stem learning in out-of-school, school, home and other settings. The report, authored by the NRC Committee on Successful Out-of-School STEM Learning, identifies six recommendations for actions that policymakers, program developers and stakeholders should consider for developing and maintaining productive programs. Download a free PDF of the report here and on the project website. Also, listen to a webcast of the public briefing about the report here.

Equity Pathways Project Update

A recent blog post at informalscience.org focused on the progress made thus far through Equity Pathways in Informal STEM Learning a Science Learning+ Phase 1 project exploring equity issues for 11-14 year olds from underserved, non-dominant backgrounds in informal STEM learning. So far the project has found that equity concerns represent an urgent and significant challenge for informal STEM learning and engagement, yet “examples of equitable informal STEM learning ‘best practices’ are few and far between.” Researchers noted strong commitment in the field of informal STEM to support youth in developing a sense of agency in their lives through STEM as well as opening up new pathways to STEM careers, lifelong pursuits or hobbies. They found a strong sense that equitable informal STEM experiences should help youth realize their goals inside and outside of science. More here.


Equipping Educators: STEM Educators Academy –  Ecosystem: NYC STEM Education Network


Devote just 5 minutes to watching this video and learning how classroom teachers and community educators are team-teaching during the school day and in expanded time, through the NYC STEM Educators Academy. The project sparks student interest and deepens their skills and knowledge in STEM subjects. It also expands time on STEM subjects by 100 hours per year for participating students. Educators engage in joint PD and planning at the New York Hall of Science, The Institute of Play or the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum over the summer. The STEM Educators Academy is funded by the Pinkerton Foundation. For more information, contact: Sabrina Gomez, Director, ExpandED STEM Opportunities.

Creating and Connecting STEM-Rich Learning Environments: Carnegie Science Center Fab Lab: Ecosystem: Pittsburgh Regional STEM Ecosystem

The Fab Lab at Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, PA is a digital fabrication laboratory for innovation and invention. Fab Lab Carnegie Science Center is part of a global network of more than 500 Fab Labs. Fab Lab equipment and resources include:

  • 3D printers
  • Laser cutters
  • Computers and software
  • ShopBot CNC milling machines
  • Video conference equipment
  • Electronics workbench equipment, including robotics
  • Mini-mill/3d scanner (2)
  • Sewing/embroidery machines
  • Projectors and documentation cameras

Young people who are new to Fab Lab start out by doing step-by-step projects with detailed instructions and close support. As they learn to use the equipment and the software, they earn digital badges in recognition of their growing competence and accomplishments, and eventually they complete higher level projects in which they decide how to reach the goal. The Fab Lab at Carnegie Science Center is targeting increased access and participation among youth from North Side of Pittsburgh, 80% of whom have never been to a cultural organization. Initiatives include teacher professional development, a new afterschool program, Project Lead the Way classes, open lab sessions, and a Mobile Fab Lab. The mobile Fab Lab is a fully equipped trailer that brings the Fab Lab resources to schools. Fab Lab staff work with teachers to tailor the Fab Lab experience to the school’s subject matter and curriculum. Recent projects included kindergarten students making and assembling 3D puzzles out of their names and middle school students building drones out of 4 tiny motors, a control circuit and a propeller, and then engaging in a Game of Drones engineering design competition. Funders include Chevron, Buell Foundation, 21st Century Community Learning Centers. For more information contact Jason Brown, Director of Science Education, Carnegie Center brownj@carnegiesciencecenter.org, (412) 237-3319

Send ideas for ecosystem spotlights to Kathleen Traphagen at ktraphagen@stemnext.org


Funding: Motorola Solutions Foundation: Deadline 3/2/2016

Innovation Generation Grant Funding Priorities: 1) Motorola Solutions communities 2) Females & minorities underrepresented in STEM fields 3) Programs that engage students in innovative, hands-on STEM activities with a special focus on engineering or information technology (IT)concepts such as coding, programming or robotics 4) Blend concepts of public safety with STEM concepts and activities 5) Vocational skills and certifications in engineering or IT 6) Help teachers improve their teaching of STEM subjects 7) Provide Motorola Solutions employees opportunities to volunteer 8) Collaborate with other STEM education providers & institutions Awards: $10,000 to $50,000. More here.

Funding: Lemelson-MIT Program 2016 InvenTeam Initiative: Deadline for initial applications 3/7/2016

The InvenTeam initiative provides opportunities for high school students to cultivate their creativity, curiosity, and problem-solving abilities and apply lessons from STEM subjects to invent technological solutions to real-world problems. Applicants are encouraged to consider the needs of the world’s poorest people – those earning $2 or less a day – when brainstorming ideas, as well as the potential for community partnerships and other types of collaboration.
More here.

Funding: STEM Expert Facilitation of Family Learning in Museums and Libraries Goals: National Leadership Grants: Deadline 5/1/2016

Museums and libraries can apply for these grants for design-based research projects that develop and explore models for inquiry-based STEM programs delivered by scientists, engineers, and related STEM experts to children ages 6-10 and their families. In particular, proposals should address the role of expert storytelling, personal histories, and analogies as part of object-based science inquiry. Proposals should include information about how findings from this research will be applicable in both museum and library settings. Eligible: Museums and Libraries Awards: Up to $1M. More here.

 Funding: STEM + Computing Partnerships: Deadline 3/28/2016 

The STEM+Computing Partnerships program seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of STEM and computing by K-12 students and teachers through research on, and development of, courses, curriculum, course materials, pedagogies, instructional strategies, models, or pedagogical environments that innovatively integrate computing into one or more other STEM disciplines, or integrate STEM content into the teaching and learning of computing. More here.

Department of education: Office of Innovation & Improvement, STEM Opportunities in FY 16

The President’s State of the Union address and the recent announcement of the “Computer Science for all,” initiative underscored the National importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education and the critical role that Computer Science (CS) plays in the Nation’s schools and economy. To support this effort, the President’s budget for FY 2017 proposes over $7 billion for STEM and CS education activities. The FY 2017 budget builds upon the Administration’s commitment to increasing the Nation’s STEM competency. For example, the Department of Education (the Department) provides several opportunities for the STEM community to compete for funding through the Department’s discretionary grant programs. For more information on the FY17 Federal STEM budget, please see the White House Fact Sheet on STEM. More here. 


Engineering Education Resources from the National Academy of Engineering: The National Academy of Engineering has launched a new website to support implementation of preK-12 engineering education in the U.S. LinkEngineering provides resources and aims to build a professional community for three groups: educators working in preK-12 classrooms and out of school settings; those engaged in preservice teacher education and professional development; and school, district, and state administrators. This project is funded by Chevron.

CodeGirl: A Documentary Film: Code Girl follows the journey of a global mobile app competition for high school girls called Technovation. The film hopes to inspire girls everywhere to pursue careers in programming. Visit the Code Girl website to request a screening in your community. http://www.codegirlmovie.com

New Communication Tools for talking about STEM education and informal learning: The FrameWorks Institute released Telling the STEM Chapter of the Education Core Story: A Communications Toolkit and The Power of Explanation: Reframing STEM and Informal Learning; these are essential insights for anyone working to make the case for greater support for an ecosystem of STEM learning opportunities. With support from the Noyce Foundation, the new Afterschool STEM Hub offers communication and advocacy materials based on the FrameWorks insights, including infographics, fact sheets, ppt slides, an animated explainer video, etc. Please contact Anita Krishnamurthi of the Afterschool Alliance (akrishnamurthi@afterschoolalliance.org) for more information.

Resources for STEM Role Models and Mentors: The FabFems Project: A collection of resources for role models, educators, and parents to inspire and educate girls about science, computer science, technology, engineering, and mathematics courses and careers. The website includes Resources for Role Models and Resources for Girls. SciGirls Role Model Strategies: Encouraging Girls to Consider STEM Careers offers basic training for role models, introducing them to best practices for their volunteer efforts. Techbridge;s Role Models Matter Online Training Toolkit is available to help develop skills to engage girls and underrepresented youth in STEM through readings, videos, and questions. Visit the National Girls Collaborative Project Role Models and Mentoring page for more resources.

Survey: High School Students’ Perceptions of STEM Careers: The National Girls Collaborative Project is surveying high school students’ perception of STEM Careers. To participate, please e-mail your name, high school name, and mailing address to info@studentresearch.org with the subject line: STEM Career Survey.

NSF Video Showcase: Does your ecosystem receive funding from the National Science Foundation? If so, consider entering the NSF Video Showcase, Advancing STEM for All: Sharing Cutting Edge Work and Community Discourse, which will feature 100 videos showcasing NSF funded, cutting edge work.  This year’s theme is broadening participation and increasing access to quality STEM and CS experiences. Entering the showcase is a great way to disseminate your work through video and learn about the work of others. During the live event colleagues and the public will view videos and engage in dialogue. To enter, you must register by March 15th at http://stemforall2016.videohall.com and must submit your video by April 28th at 5:00 PM.


NASA Summer Internships for Students with Disabilities – Deadline 3/2/2016

NASA wants to increase the number of students with disabilities pursuing STEM careers by recruiting more students with disabilities into their internship programs. All student interns get paid. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, with a minimum GPA of 3.0 for college and 3.0 for high school. High school students must be at least 16 years old at the time the internship begins. Internships are available at all NASA centers nationwide. More here.

Funding: Discovery Education Deadline: 4/20/2016

For the Young Scientist Challenge, students should create a short video describing a new, innovative solution that could solve an everyday problem. Ten finalists will be chosen for their passion for science, spirit of innovation and ingenuity, and effective communication skills. Eligible: Students, grades 5-8. Award: up to $25,000. More here.