Executive director Natasha Smith-Walker reflects on the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative’s participation in the 1st national convening of the STEM Ecosystems Initiative in Washington, D.C.

I had the privilege of joining several members of the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative at The STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative’s first in-person Community of Practice meeting on November 11th and 12th in Washington, DC. This seminal gathering brought together STEM-focused funders, stakeholders and practitioners from 27 metropolitan areas. Yes 27! Being in the presence of so many professionals that share the same passion for positively impacting STEM learning was exhilarating. It both illustrated and confirmed that there is larger community that is committed to this very important issue.

The Chicago group included Michael Cassel (Boeing), Tony Streit (EDC), Beth Crownover (Field Museum), and Matt Blakely (Motorola Solutions Foundation). We had the unique opportunity to learn more about White House STEM efforts from many federal agencies, among them were the President’s Chief Technology Officer, the Director of IMLS, the National Science Foundation’s Education Director, and the Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

In addition, there were a series of facilitated conversations with the experts who – literally – wrote the book on Community of Practice, Etienne and Bev Wenger-Trayner – http://wenger-trayner.com/.

The STEM Ecosystem website shares this about the event:

“The 27 STEM Learning Ecosystems that gathered in Washington, D.C. represent the inaugural group selected by the STEM Funders Network for support as part of a larger commitment that will grow to support 100 ecosystems in its first three years. These groups are forming a diverse set of communities from across the country by creating engaging, real-world STEM learning experiences. Each of the 27 networks is receiving hands-on technical assistance individualized to the needs of each community from the STEM Funders Network.

‘The President has called for all of us to think of creative and effective ways of getting all of our students engaged in STEM education,’ noted John Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. ‘It’s heartening to see so many communities working locally and together in response to the President’s call to action.’

‘We look forward to continuing our work with communities nationwide,’ added Gerald Solomon, co-chair of the STEM Funders Network and executive director of the Samueli Foundation. ‘We know that these grassroots, local partnerships can provide a sustainable way to ensure STEM learning is truly ‘everywhere’ for all learners as they build the skills and knowledge to thrive in a global workforce.'”

It was a wonderful way to kick off this collaborative! We all look forward to contributing to the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative.

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