College of Education > News and Publications > 2019: 04-06 news > Network including CSATS selected to join global STEM ecosystem

Network including CSATS selected to join global STEM ecosystem

A central Pennsylvania collaborative network that includes the Penn State College of Education's Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS) is one of 15 organizations selected to join the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice (SLECoP).

CSATS ENGINE
Kathy Hill, Center for Science and the Schools; Amanda Smith, Center for Science and the Schools; Willonda McCloud, Lancaster County STEM Alliance; Greg Washington, dean of engineering at UC Irvine; and LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill, Remake Learning, discuss the benefits of the new collaboration.
A central Pennsylvania collaborative network that includes the Penn State College of Education's Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS) is one of 15 organizations selected to join the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice (SLECoP)

In a highly competitive process, the ENGINE (Empowering the Next Generation of Innovators and Entrepreneurs) of Central PA, a project of fiscal sponsor Foundation for Enhancing Communities (TFEC), was selected to join the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice to join the global movement devoted to dramatic improvement in how students learn.

STEM Learning Ecosystems build meaningful regional connections among educators, business and industry partners, after-school and summer programs, to prepare students for the opportunities and challenges of the future. Each ecosystem connects to counterparts from across the country and world, enabling the exchange of best practices, information and resource-sharing.

The 15 ecosystems joining the SLECoP bring the number to 85 total, with most in the United States but also extending to Canada, Mexico, Israel and Kenya. New ecosystems to join the SLECoP range from the entire states of Iowa, Texas, South Carolina and West Virginia to regions like Biloxi, Mississippi, Broward County, Florida, central Massachusetts and Lincoln, Nebraska.

"This was an incredibly competitive process, and we were only able to admit ecosystems who would be capable of making immediate contributions to our thriving community of practice," said Jan Morrison, president and founding partner of TIES, the organization that operates the SLECoP. "The ecosystems that we selected now have pulled together diverse partners who no longer accept the status quo in education; they want to see all students access high quality STEM education that will prepare them for life and work in the next century."

Forming STEM ecosystems was listed as the No. 1 priority for STEM education in a December 2018 report by the Federal Office of Science and Technology Policy.

"ENGINE of Central PA will connect four Penn State campuses with people and organizations across 12 counties to spark innovation, share best practices, and leverage existing resources aimed at supporting equitable STEM learning that is relevant to the work and life of the region."
— Kathy Hill, director of CSATS

"Fifteen federal agencies collaborated in creating this report, and they now emphasize uniting a broad range of cross-sector partners to expand impact and broaden participation in STEM education and workforce development. Penn State Center for Science and the Schools (CSATS) is taking a leading role in ENGINE of Central PA as we serve to bridge science and engineering research faculty with preK-12 education," said Kathy Hill, director of CSATS and broader impacts director of ENGINE of Central PA

"ENGINE of Central PA will connect four Penn State campuses with people and organizations across 12 counties to spark innovation, share best practices, and leverage existing resources aimed at supporting equitable STEM learning that is relevant to the work and life of the region."

In addition to University Park, those campuses are: Schuylkill, Harrisburg, DuBois, and the Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Penn State Cancer Institute.

"Central Pennsylvania is making great strides to offer the recommended rich, meaningful STEM education and experiences to our youth," said Amanda Smith, STEM outreach liaison with CSATS and executive director of ENGINE of Central PA. "As a recognized STEM Learning Ecosystem, we can tailor quality STEM learning opportunities to our specific needs in central Pennsylvania while leveraging the experiences of similar alliances across the world."

ENGINE covers a 12-county region: Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Cumberland, Dauphin, Fulton, Huntingdon, Juniata, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry and Schuylkill. Therefore, it was critical to establish an executive leadership team that could represent regional territories as we develop equitable opportunities for preK-12.

In addition to Smith and Hill of CSATS, the executive leadership team of ENGINE of Central PA includes outreach officers Jessica Rice, director of education at Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts, and Michele Crowl, executive director of Discovery Space; and regional directors Michael Baker, curriculum consultant of Central Intermediate Unit 10; Lauren Beal, STEM supervisor of Lebanon/Lancaster Intermediate Unit 13; Annie Milewski, supervisor of STEM and district support consultant of Schuylkill Intermediate Unit 29; Susan Voigt, educational services supervisor of Capital Area Intermediate Unit 15; and Peney Wright, STEM/STEAM curriculum and instruction specialist at Tuscarora Intermediate Unit 11.

Early plans for central Pennsylvania are to provide regional town hall events to map assets and influences contributing to STEM-centric pathways for preK-12. ENGINE has held six meet-ups to date to start the process of asset mapping, and they will continue in order to help connect the region.

"Our goal is to provide support for cross-sector partnership programs and activities that will address identified needs and gaps while providing further opportunities for our youth," Smith said.

Further ENGINE priorities include a teacher externship program bridging STEM research and industry to education, and a Chief Science Officers (CSO) program to develop high school student leaders to learn about and subsequently promote STEM careers and pathways within central Pennsylvania. Support will be sought to make ENGINE a lasting success, with TFEC as the fiscal sponsor. This allows ENGINE of Central PA to secure corporate donations, offer tax benefits to their donors, and apply for grants in addition to many other benefits. TFEC is responsible of all contributions and prepares and sends acknowledgment letters to donors.

SLECoP is a global initiative of innovators who know that thriving communities are built through collaboration and a willingness to reimagine education and provide opportunities to those commonly neglected. It was built on the fundamental belief that learning happens everywhere, not just in traditional classrooms. Consequently, ecosystems are made up of partners representing K-12 public and private education, business and industry, after-school providers, nonprofits, STEM-rich institutions, government and philanthropy.

Learn more about CSATS at https://csats.psu.edu/ and about ENGINE of Central PA at enginecentralpa.org online. To address specific questions contact an executive leadership team member. Join online conversations on Twitter at @enginecentralpa.

The official registration and financial information of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities may be obtained from the Pennsylvania Department of State by calling toll free, within Pennsylvania, 1.800.732.0999. Registration does not imply endorsement. The Foundation for Enhancing Communities is registered in each state requiring such registration for charitable solicitation.