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SCG Members Samueli Foundation and Tiger Woods Foundation Featured in US News and World Report Article on STEM

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The below article was published in US News and World Report on June 30, 2015:

It's not enough to just bring STEM education into the classroom each day -- learning takes place outside of school, too.

By bringing together educators, administrators, businesses and community organizations, leaders can create a "STEM Ecosystem" that helps students learn after school and in their local communities, experts said during the U.S. News STEM Solutions conference in San Diego on Tuesday.

The panelists included leaders from foundations, educational institutions and community programs. Katherine Bihr, vice president of programs and education for the Tiger Woods Foundation; Jeff Hittenberger, chief academic officer of the Orange County Department of Education; and Lucy Santana-Ornelas, chief executive officer of Girls Inc. of Orange County, participated in the panel discussion titled "OC STEM: An Exosystem Approach Optimizing STEM Learning for All."

Gerald Solomon, executive director of the Samueli Foundation, moderated the discussion. Below are key takeaways from the panel.
Higher education administrators, students and industry professionals gathered in Washington, D.C., on May 5, 2015, to speak to Congressional staffers and representatives about the need to attract more African-American men to STEM.

Many STEM Learning ecosystems -- at least 25 to date -- are developing across the country, many of which are modeled after a system that started in Orange County, California. Developing the OC STEM project was a grassroots effort, the panelists said, that brought together donors, the county department of education and the local Girls Inc. chapter and local schools.

After identifying other similar systems across the country, Solomon said the group identified common attributes among successful ecosystems: programs anchored by strong, passionate leaders with a collaborative vision and practice; with long-term, committed funding; with a strong, engaged after-school partner; with credible, engaged informal learning partners; and with a receptive public education partner.

The successful systems also shared common strategies: building the capacity of educators in all sectors; equipping educators with the tools and structures to enable sustained collaboration; linking in-and out-of-school STEM learning; creating learning progressions that connect and deepen STEM experiences over time; focusing instruction on inquiry, project-based learning and real-world connections to increase relevance; engaging families and communities; and maintaining a career opportunities focus.

"This is not about ego," said Bihr. "It has done what no other initiative has done for us ... just focus on what kids need. Boom. That's it."

Hittenberger of the Orange County Department of Education said the system has been "transformative" for public education.

"Often times in formal education, teachers are in their classroom trying to implement new standards and the after school world and informal world are alien," Hittenberger said. "To realize we have these partners in the informal space who can be working together with us on the implementation of these complex sets of standards ... that's super powerful. And it's having a transformative effect on the way our schools are approaching STEM."

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