PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December PSBA 2021 Bulletin November/December - Page 45

bright ideas

bright ideas

Embracing equity in STEM through ecosystems

By Amanda Daniels

Studies indicate that educating students in science , technology , engineering and math , known as STEM , uniquely suits them for success . In fact , our economic prosperity relies on educating upcoming generations in these subjects , as STEM occupations are expected to continuously grow , and these types of careers are presumed to provide steadier and higher wages . The logical thought processes required for learning STEM subjects and careers translates to healthy mental habits that are applicable to all areas of learning . STEM is often a collaborative effort , teaching kids to function in teams and with large and diverse groups of people , skills that will no doubt be valued in their work lives . Time management and breaking larger projects into smaller steps are also critical skills that come with learning STEM subjects .

If the real-world benefits of STEM are so clear , why then are there gaps in equity when it comes to STEM ? And how can educators and school leaders get more girls , students from diverse backgrounds and skill levels interested in these subjects ? Pennsylvania STEM Experiences for Equity and Diversity ( PA SEED ) Ecosystem in southeast Pennsylvania says it ’ s all about awareness . The organization is creating awareness through its STEM ecosystem , a collaboration of school districts and local organizations , centers of learning , institutions , and libraries united to provide students with a robust , highly connected and well-rounded STEM learning experience .
PA SEED is one of eight nationally recognized STEM ecosystems now across the state . It was formed four years ago as part of the national STEM ecosystem movement started by the STEM Funders Network and TIES ( Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM ). “ Ecosystem goals are to bring together all the stakeholders that could influence students ’ STEM experiences , so K-12 education , higher education , business and industry , informal ed , out of school programs , parents , and families ,” says Stephanie Schwab , one of PA SEED ’ s executive leaders and the STEM program administrator for the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit . “ The goal is to bring everyone together ... to network and connect and really show students how everything works together for their STEM experiences .”
Our economic prosperity relies on educating upcoming generations in these subjects , as STEM occupations are expected to continuously grow , and these types of careers are presumed to provide steadier and higher wages .
Montgomery , Bucks , Chester and Delaware County intermediate units are the backbone of PA SEED , each bringing partners they were already working with to this group . “ The goal was to have a larger collective impact and do things that we each wouldn ’ t be able to do on our own in our own county ,” says Schwab . “ We really wanted to focus on the idea of equity and diversity for all students and making sure that everybody , no matter who they are , where they live , what their race is or culture , has access to what they need .”
On the best path forward to ensuring equity in STEM , Schwab reflects , “ A key phrase that has stood out to me for the longest time is ‘ kids can ’ t be what they can ’ t see .’ If we can ’ t bring to them all those possibilities and opportunities out there , they don ’ t have any idea . That ’ s been the driving force behind what we do . And it ’ s for all kids .”
To learn more about PA SEED , contact Stephanie Schwab at sschwab @ mciu . org .
November / December 2021 PSBA Bulletin 43