Whether your school has an established STEAM program or you’re finding ways to incorporate STEM or STEAM into your curriculum, building a partnership between your school and a STEAM organization can greatly benefit your learning community. For starters, a partnership builds a bridge between classroom learning and life outside of school, providing an opportunity for real-world application. Connecting students to community members and organizations can teach them about local resources and events, the power of civic engagement, job prospects, and much more. Partnerships can also reduce project costs, gain resources and support needed, and maximize all of the great work you’re already doing.
Organizations exist around the world to help schools and communities promote STEM learning. “Really look at your community; there are so many resources: museums, local companies, theaters giving tickets to local schools, public transportation giving tickets to student groups, and field trip opportunities offering grants,” says Lori Sanchez, EdD. “Here in Portland, we have the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and they got a NASA grant to work with local schools. There are so many ways to connect to the community. It just takes time to go around and ask organizations what they do for education.”
Here’s a starter list of amazing organizations that partner with schools to provide curriculum and/or in-school and after-school programs in the name of STEM.
Through a volunteer group of 300 technology professional teachers and school and company partners, Code Nation (formerly ScriptEd) brings “coding courses and work-based learning programs to students who attend under-resourced high schools.” Available in New York City and the San Francisco area, the organization states that 73% of its alumni “are on track for a career in tech – either majoring in computer science or a related field in college or currently employed in tech.” Started six years ago, Code Nation has “taught nearly 3,000 students web development skills, and this year we’ll prepare 1,500 more for tech careers,” according to founder and CEO Maurya Couvares. “I can’t wait to see what the next six years hold as we become Code Nation.”
Providing free STEM-based learning challenges for use at home or in school, Curiosity Machine makes STEM learning available to all students and families. The process involves finding inspiration, bringing the idea to life, sharing, and reflecting. According to the organization, “Each challenge begins by showing what cutting-edge scientists and engineers are working on, and how it’s changing the world…Our challenges give enough instruction to help get started and endless freedom to take ideas wherever they lead.”
A national organization, Girls Who Code offers after-school clubs for third- through 12th-grade girls to explore coding. They also have two-week summer courses for sixth- through 12th-grade girls. During the summer, there’s a seven-week summer program for 10th- and 11th-grade girls to learn about coding and tech jobs. “Computing is where the jobs are — and where they will be in the future, but fewer than one in five computer science graduates are women,” according to the organization. But Girls Who Code is seeing positive momentum in closing this gap. “When I started Girls Who Code, I never would have imagined that we would grow to become a movement reaching almost 90,000 girls of all backgrounds in all 50 states,” says founder Reshma Saujani. “We are on track to achieve gender parity in computer science by 2027.”
Iridescent’s mission is to provide engineering and technology education to underrepresented young people, with a focus on girls, to build future leaders and innovators. The organization trains “professional engineers, scientists, and parents to deliver cutting-edge STEM education to underserved girls, children and their families.” You can follow founder and CEO Tara Chklovski to stay up to date on what this organization is doing.
This national organization provides K-16 curriculum for 21st-century skills and STEM learning. Their middle-grade curriculum features 400+ hours of “blended-learning curriculum and project-based activities for in-school, after-school, and summer bridge programming.” The high school curriculum features over 3,000 hours of the same type of learning opportunities. They also “partner with companies to connect students and adult learners to in-demand career pathways. Corporations and government entities partner with STEM 101 to develop real-world projects for classroom and workforce service use.”
Stoked aims to mold future leaders through mentoring, opportunity, and action. “Through mentorship and action sports culture, STOKED empowers underserved youth to reach their fullest potential, instilling passion, resilience, and determination,” says the organization. With classes, after-school, and weekend programs, students learn to skateboard, design skateboards using STEM skills, and even learn about marketing and branding. “Stoked Prep Middle School program includes skateboard instruction and project-based activities including STEM and multimedia art lessons related to action sports culture. In addition, students will design and facilitate community service projects.” The high school program, Stoked for Success, is a leadership development program that uses “action sports culture to positively impact youth. Students learn to snowboard, skateboard, and surf, as well as gain professional mentorship, to become college and career ready.” Stoked is currently available in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Every year, Technovation puts out the call for teams of girls from all over the world to learn and apply the skills to problem-solve using technology. “Girls work in teams to build both a mobile app and a business plan to launch that app, supported by mentors and guided by our curriculum. Technovation’s curriculum takes students through four stages of launching a mobile app startup, inspired by the principles of design thinking.”
Jennifer L.M. Gunn spent 10 years in newspaper and magazine publishing before moving to public education. She is a curriculum designer, teaching coach, and high school educator in New York City. She is also co-founder of the annual EDxEDNYC Education Conference for teacher-led innovation, and regularly presents at conferences on the topics of adolescent literacy, leadership, and education innovation.