As many of you may already know, the Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (the STEM Co-op for short) is a collaborative effort aimed at increasing youth and family access to quality STEM experiences in both formal and informal settings, from cradle to career. Project Exploration began laying the foundation for this Co-op in 2011, originally designing it as a measure to analyze the STEM opportunities in the Chicago area as they relate to underrepresented youth. Since then, the STEM Co-op has been working to improve the coordination of STEM learning and expand pathways for STEM experiences extending from early childhood to adulthood.

After several years of successful work documenting the STEM landscape for youth across the city, the STEM Co-op is now working to support the development of neighborhood-based STEM learning systems called “demonstration communities.” The STEM Co-op will work with partners and stakeholders on this project to identify gaps, map assets, and collect data on STEM learning opportunities at the local level in the hope that a scalable STEM education design that can be applied to a wider area and range of Chicago communities.

As this a new initiate, the STEM Co-op is currently in the pilot program phase with the Austin community. Specifically chosen for it diversity of local assets and opportunities for young people to explore the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math, Austin is meant to act as a microcosm of the much larger Chicago community. The challenge arises in strengthening the STEM opportunities in Austin in that it will require a collective strategy that brings diverse stakeholders together, builds on the community’s assets, and leverages local expertise. Over the course of the next two years, the STEM Co-op will work with this diverse range of local and citywide stakeholders to support the development of Austin’s STEM learning ecosystem.

Written by Lukas C. Cottingham, Marketing and Communications Director