STEM in the Community: National City

Boy working on a project

You already know that the Fleet Science Center takes very seriously its mission of connecting people of all ages to the power of science. But how much do you know about its community-centered science initiatives?  

Let us introduce you to Wraparound Services for STEM Learning (WSSL), one such initiative.  

With support from the Department of Navy’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Education and Workforce Program, administered by the Office of Naval Research, WSSL is an ideal collaboration of community partners focused in National City. The partners are the Fleet, National School District, Sweetwater Union School District, National City Public Library, Naval Base San Diego, Ocean Connectors, Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center and A Reason to Survive.  

Together, the partners will work within the traditionally underrepresented National City community to advance both STEM learning as well as diversity, equity and inclusion practices. Each partner brings unique assets to WSSL.  

The Fleet’s understanding of and expertise in community initiatives bolsters the initiative’s focus of whole community collaboration. For instance, its pandemic work, including 16 Weeks of STEAM and home-based family engagement in National City, revealed that tying family engagement activities to STEM content focus areas of the schools served three groups simultaneously—families, students, and educators. Results: greater reach, greater engagement and greater impact among participants.  

The Fleet also is the central project office for the San Diego STEM Ecosystem, which creates positioning and insight for WSSL. The Fleet will leverage its communication, collaboration, and coordination within San Diego STEM Ecosystem to recruit STEM professionals and other education organizations to support WSSL efforts.  

The Fleet’s contributions complement its partners’ offerings. According to Jen Nation, executive director of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, "Olivewood Gardens is proud to partner with like-minded organizations in National City to provide unique and creative opportunities for youth. These programs provide students space to use real-world challenges and curiosity to explore STEAM activities and careers. At Olivewood we challenge youth to get their hands dirty learning environmental and nutrition science. This funding will ensure we can serve more students through these programs."  

What does the community get? WSSL will provide in-school education workshops, after-school activities, parent workshops, family activities, and professional development for educators. All programs will be offered each year for three years.  

All these activities and opportunities will support skill development of Naval interest and will align with Next Generation Science Standards and California state standards. In addition, the partners will develop and coordinate cohesive curricula and position STEM professionals as role models in the programming.  

To ensure quality, the partners will use an external evaluator to develop shared surveys and metrics and will regularly report and reflect on impact and show that efforts such as WSSL are the surest path to ensuring a better future.  

WSSL Primary Goals 
Integrate Fleet Science Center and WSSL partner curricula with teaching methods and curricula from Naval Base San Diego, consistent with California state curriculum standards.  
Improve communication between partners, resulting in coordinated STEM activities. 
Reduce redundancies in STEM curricula and ensure STEM learning and activities build on each other and leverage partnerships. 
Increase student, parent/caregiver, teacher, and community engagement in STEM learning.  
Measure and refine any obstacles to ensure the project can be replicated by establishing a blueprint that by year three, strengthens San Diego’s STEM Ecosystem, further impacting the local populations’ job opportunities in the military and defense sector.