Spreading the Word about Successful STEM Education

Catherine McCulloch, with a strong team from EDC and external partners, works to address national concerns about the gap between research and practice in K–12 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. In this post, she reflect on EDC's partnership with the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Research Council (NRC) to share findings and implications from the NRC report Successful K–12 STEM Education.

“STEM” is in the headlines in a big way. It’s clear that students need strong STEM—“Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math”—skills and knowledge not just to meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and Common Core State Standards, but to thrive in college and the workforce. In response, schools and districts across the U.S. are searching for ways to enhance STEM education and achievement.

For four years, EDC has been part of STEM Smart, an exciting effort to spread the word about effective STEM education strategies. Working closely with the NSF and NRC, we have planned and co-hosted a series of free "STEM Smart" workshops that have shared information about projects, resources, and initiatives that align with findings from the NRC report Successful K12 STEM Education. In San Francisco, Massachusetts, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Baltimore, Las Vegas, Chicago, Seattle, and Philadelphia, we have engaged over 2,000 registrants (K–12 teachers, administrators, informal educators, policy-makers, and faculty) in learning about evidence-based STEM programs and exploring how they can apply the report’s findings in their work. You can download resources, including briefs on STEM topics and videos from the workshops, from our Successful STEM Education website.

We have gained some interesting insights from hosting these workshops. Most notably, we have found that while the goal of the STEM Smart workshops is to bring evidence-based resources and practices to K–12 educators, many others benefit. As researchers and program developers sit side by side with educators, we observe practice informing research. Researchers and program developers are getting invaluable feedback on their programs and adaptability to different sites. They tell us that the chance to interact with educators is critical to their work. At the same time, researcher-practitioner relationships that have the potential to grow into ongoing partnerships are sprouting. 

The networking and learning doesn’t end there. STEM Smart workshops convene stakeholders that all have a keen interest in STEM education, but are rarely in the same room. Preschool teachers engage in discussions with high school curriculum coordinators, college faculty, mayors, congressmen, and reps from NASA, NSF, and NOAA. For the latter group, the exchange of ideas offers an important opportunity to hear about educators’ concerns and realities first-hand. We are also learning a lot from the STEM Smart meetings and have benefited tremendously from having on-the-ground partners in each city—most often a university—that help us coordinate and plan the meetings and ensure we can provide a comfortable environment to promote this vital sharing of STEM education info and ideas. A quote from one participant captures the feelings of all involved:

"This meeting helped me to see the big picture that is going on nationally, showed me that there are a lot of people out there who also think STEM is important, and (And I think this is most important) I really came away from this meeting thinking that STEM is not going to be successfully implemented in the K–12 classroom without lots of people talking to each other, communicating what works and what doesn’t, trading ideas, sharing resources and new programs]\curriculum It helped me to see the bigger picture of how important STEM really is to our country.”