Landing a $975,000 appropriation
The STEM2 Hub, an ecosystem serving the Northeast Florida region, successfully lobbied the Florida legislature for a $975,000 appropriation for workforce development to expand equitable access to robotics, computer science, high quality mathematics instruction and to expand after-school programs that prepare students to be critical and flexible thinkers.
Kathleen Schofield, executive director of STEM2 Hub and a driving force for the 2018 appropriation, said she had never worked on any kind of statewide lobbying or legislation before.
“I didn’t know any of these people in the beginning, or how to do this. … I was like a deer in the headlights,” she said. “ I didn’t even know where to start!”
She said her first step was to turn to those who could guide her. And in the case of STEM2 Hub, it was Gary Chartrand, who serves on the board of STEM2 Hub and who had served on the Florida Board of Education.
Schofield said having a champion who is connected, coupled with having an ask that makes sense and meets current needs while offering promise for results, was why the STEM2 Hub request was successful.
Schofield explained that landing the appropriation was only a fraction of the heavy lift involved.
When news arrived that funds would be available to work with school districts, Schofield began to focus on the details of building an implementation plan. She started developing and implementing an outreach plan, meeting with district superintendents and curriculum leaders, pitching the idea of starting to expand access to robots, coding, 3D printing and maker-spaces to their media centers, starting in the elementary schools.
Eventually, Schofield had to switch how the plan was being implemented steering it away from elementary media centers to middle school science courses. She said this shift in thinking has opened new doors for the project.
AFFECTING SYSTEM CHANGE
Reflecting on the project, Schofield said, “I did not anticipate how much deeper the project will need to go to affect a complete system change that is needed to truly prepare teachers for the needs of our students, and for the workforce. I also did not realize or anticipate up front that this project could, in fact, be the catalyst for such a change!
“But what I found was that there is a team of people on the fringes of this project that are ready to engage, partner, and help us take the project to the next level, bringing in additional content, curriculum, and expertise. I also realized that inventing the tools to prepare teachers to empower children to solve problems that we do not yet know about or understand is a challenge and a mindset shift in itself.