Kansas City was named one of 27 communities to pilot a national program aimed to boost the area science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, ecosystem.
There are still many unknowns following the announcement as community leaders involved wait for further direction from the STEM Ecosystem Initiative, but Science Pioneers executive director LeAnn Smith said she does know Kansas City is receiving a technical assistance team. Science Pioneers, which will serve as one of the organizers of the local “ecosySTEMKC” group, provides education activities encourage science education for youth in Kansas City.
Each city is guaranteed a team of trained professionals who can provide the “20,000-foot view,” as Smith called it, of the STEM environment in order to help provide a roadmap of how to improve.
STEM Ecosystems has been around for more than a decade, and focus on building collaborations that yield education opportunities for young people in the STEM areas.
For Kansas City, Smith said the collaboration across all sectors is imperative. She said that between companies, nonprofits and educators, the STEM environment is “rich,” but “very siloed.”
“These experts can help us identify the gaps, and help us weave this tapestry together,” she said.
The Kansas City effort has been dubbed ‘ecosySTEMKC,’ and organizers include Science Pioneers, Kansas City STEM Alliance, Kansas Enrichment Network and Mid-America Regional Council.
Though some cities, like Kansas City, are newly-named ‘Communities of Practice,’ others have already been working with STEM Ecosystems’ teams and have learned practices to share.
“The approach the (STEM) Funders Network is taking is phenomenal,” Smith said. “There are already so many best practices and high-performing programs they’re going to leverage.”
Next week, 10 of the 27 cities will be awarded a $10,000 grant. And in November, a group of leaders from organizations involved in the ecosySTEMKC effort are traveling to Washington D.C. for a kick-off meeting to learn what’s next in the process.