Project Exploration actively participates in a number of civic initiatives designed to improve out-of-school time STEM education in Chicago, and across the nation. Participation in these initiatives ensures that PE’s core values (equity, access, community and youth voice) remain part of important policy conversations. This broad network of partners and contacts also provides PE with access to opportunities and resources.
Some notable initiatives are described below.
CHICAGO STEM PATHWAYS COOPERATIVE
The Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative (STEM Coop), was driven by Project Exploration as a community-based effort to survey out-of-school-time programs and consider the ways education institutions, businesses and city services could work together to support equitable and accessible pathways to STEM activities for Chicago’s youth. After several years of successfully documenting and improving Chicago’s STEM learning landscape, the STEM Coop is beginning to develop Chicago’s STEM Learning Ecosystem. This cross-sector collaborative of Chicago Public Schools, nonprofits, foundations, cultural and civic institutions, corporations, higher education institutions and parents will improve the coordination of STEM learning opportunities and identify gaps in programming. This work will support students to make connections between STEM learning opportunities and increase student engagement. A pipeline of STEM programs will create seamless learning for youth in and out of school, at STEM rich institutions (such as museums), in higher education institutions and in the business community.
Over the next 18 months, the STEM Coop will develop reliable benchmarks and collect accurate data on the landscape of STEM programs, opportunities and availability. This data will be used to develop overall STEM Learning Ecosystem priorities. By cultivating cross-sector partnerships, and equipping educators to create STEM rich learning environments, youth are supported to pursue STEM activities and careers.
More about the work of the Coop can be found at www.stemchicago.wordpress.com.
CHICAGO STEM BADGING ECOSYSTEM (C-STEMBE)
Project Exploration was a lead partner along with the Chicago Botanic Garden in the Hive-funded C-STEMBE, a citywide badging initiative with 14 partners (including the Adler Planetarium, Chicago Architecture Foundation, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum), with a particular focus on building out STEM badging for the Chicago City of Learning initiative.