A Penn State–led STEM organization is part of a group making recommendations to the Biden-Harris administration on how to improve STEM learning and connections to careers in communities across the country.
ENGINE of Central PA STEM Learning Ecosystem includes schools, after-school and summer programs, science centers and museums, and other learning opportunities for young people, according to Amanda Smith, the executive director for ENGINE and director of K-12 Engagement at Penn State.
The Pennsylvania organization is one of 90 STEM Learning Ecosystems Communities of Practice nationwide that produced a report making five major recommendations for how the new administration, as well as individual states and local communities, can improve STEM learning.
“We were pleased to participate in this report and have great hope for positively shaping the future of STEM in Pennsylvania, which will have benefits for all of us, including our key industries,” Smith said.
The recommendations, contained in a recently released report, “Restoring America’s Position as a World Leader by Reinvesting in STEM,” are based on a series of town hall sessions, surveys, and interviews with STEM leaders from nearly every state. More than 1,000 STEM leaders, families, teachers, and after-school educators, as well as representatives of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, were involved.
The report recommends fostering collaboration to engage, leverage, and link community resources, supporting steps to improve and diversify the STEM teaching pipeline and revamping teacher evaluation systems to allow for performance-based measures that are better aligned to STEM postsecondary and career options.
The report also recommends creating an early learning system for STEM and encouraging student participation in STEM by increasing the visibility, relevance, and connections to real-world and community challenges.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, STEM Learning Ecosystems’ already established partnerships allowed immediate collaboration to serve community needs, including manufacturing personal protective equipment and securing and distributing computers and devices for getting online, according to Jan Morrison, president and founder of Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM. The ecosystems also assisted with countless remote learning opportunities for students, including those without internet access, she said.