21PSTEM Leads New Urban STEAM Initiative

The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education (21PSTEM), along with several other prominent Philadelphia area partner organizations, received a $150,000 grant from the Barra Foundation to launch an innovative new curriculum framework that joins the formal classroom to informal learning environments, such as afterschool programs, summer camps, and robotics clubs. The new framework will add arts and cultural studies to an integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum designed to provide students a deeper and more practical understanding of the world around them.

A key component of the program is the planned inclusion of informal learning experiences, such as visiting museums and business internships, into the formal curriculum to provide student concrete applications of what is taught in “formal” classroom settings. This blended course of study is being designed to motivate students, increase their achievement, reduce dropout rates and encourage them to pursue STEAM related post-secondary studies and well-paying careers.

The New Urban STEAM Initiative is the first of its kind in the nation and builds on prior National Science Foundation grants and a current United States Agency for International Development-funded (USAID) grant in Egypt designing new Model STEM schools for their Ministry of Education.

The partners in this initiative are: The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the Franklin Institute, the Independence Seaport Museum, the Philadelphia Education Fund, the School District of Philadelphia, and the University City Science Center, the Teaching Institute of Excellence in STEM. The high schools are yet to be determined.

“By connecting the richness and uniqueness of Philadelphia informal educational assets into the actual formal curriculum, high school students can draw on a wealth of resources not traditionally part of their high school experience,” said F. Joseph Merlino, president of 21PSTEM.

21st Century Partnership for STEM Education is a non-profit research and action organization based in Conshohocken. A leading innovator of STEM education, it is dedicated to identifying and implementing ways to transform student learning. By working with a network of nearly 40 collegiate, nonprofit and for-profit partners, 21PSTEM develops and manages both large and small scale projects where diverse and varied expertise can be utilized in a collaborative environment to maximize program efficacy. They also recently received a grant from the STEM Funder’s Network for building a learning ecosystem to further STEM education.