What is the STEM Ecosystems Initiative?

The STEM Ecosystems Initiative is a collection of like-minded partners preparing every child to thrive through high-quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education. Ecosystems are organized local efforts across the country driven by collaboration among community partners to improve access to high-quality STEM learning for all students.

This effort addresses the lack of coordination within the field, a challenge that has stalled progress in closing equity gaps and dramatically improving students’ STEM literacy. By relying on coordination among school districts, teachers, parents, higher education institutions and informal STEM programs, to name a few, each Ecosystem can transform the local infrastructure to ensure that more students, particularly underserved and underrepresented students, develop the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.

STEM Ecosystems are grounded in the National Research Council’s Framework for K12 Science Education, Surrounded by Science: Learning Science in Informal Environments and Community Programs to Promote Youth Development, as well as other research about how young people learn and develop.

Can any organization join a local Ecosystem?

Local Ecosystems self-organize and manage their own structure and operations. Ecosystems tend to be quite inclusive, given their emphasis on partnership building and collaboration to achieve ambitious goals. To learn more about the San Diego STEM Ecosystem, visit sdstemecosystem.org or contact stemecosystem@rhfleet.org to join the local ecosystem email list.

Why is it important to cultivate and support local Ecosystems?

Local stakeholders know what is best for their community. And yet, untapped opportunities remain. Local, regional and state school systems and community organizations can work together to provide high-quality STEM education for more students, particularly underserved and underrepresented students. Barriers to collaboration often include lack of time and resources, and lack of infrastructure. STEM Ecosystems provide the necessary support to help local stakeholders with a common goal align their resources and efforts to maximize results for kids, teachers and parents—and to create systemic change in how the community prepares students for success through STEM.

What does the STEM Ecosystems Initiative envision for the next phase of STEM awareness in the U.S.?

Our nation is finally heeding the call for greater support for student proficiency in STEM, particularly for underserved and underrepresented students. In the coming years, we will see silos breaking down across education, business and community leadership so that all stakeholders with a common vision can work together to maximize STEM learning and exploration for all students and prepare all young people to meet the demands of 21st century jobs. Local communities will drive innovative programs and delivery systems to support teachers, students and parents, while national philanthropies and policymakers will work to scale models that move the needle in student achievement. Of course, the nation will continue to tackle challenges in equity, career pathways and alignment between classrooms and out-of-school opportunities for students. The STEM Ecosystems Initiative looks forward to empowering local Ecosystems that will lead this important work, community by community.