On April 22-25, the Tampa Bay STEM Network, led by Hillsborough County Public Schools, hosted a national conference of professional learning to help prepare all students for STEM pursuits in both college and career.
Attendees of the conference represent 37 STEM learning ecosystems from around the country, which are made up of schools, community settings such as after-school or summer programs, science centers and museums, informal experiences at home in a variety of environments that together constitute a rich array of learning opportunities for young people. A learning ecosystem harnesses the unique contributions of all these different settings to deliver STEM learning for all children. The Tampa Bay STEM Network was the first STEM ecosystem in Florida.
The STEM ecosystems are supported by the STEM Funders Network, a consortium of over 50 philanthropic foundations representing large corporations and individuals.
"Hillsborough County Public Schools is an example of a K-12 system that totally embraces STEM," said Marc Siciliano, National Director of the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM. He applauded HCPS for their STEM focus from the design perspective. "The teachers have dedicated time for the students to make connections from the academic lessons taught in the classroom to the workplace, the community and the STEM partners who support the STEM Ecosystem. The Tampa bay STEM Network, led by HCPS, has done a really good job of creating the infrastructure for this collaboration to occur," he said.
The Tampa Bay STEM Network was part of the original cohort of 27 STEM Ecosystems that began work in January 2016 with the assistance of Jeff Vinik and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Tampa Bay STEM Network was represented by HCPS STEM personnel and STEM partners such as the Moffit Cancer Center, Museum of Science and Industry, Lowry Park Zoo, the Hillsborough Education Foundation, the University of South Florida, Hillsborough Community College, the Alliance for Public Schools, the Glazer Children's Museum and the Florida Aquarium.
"We could not impact the community without the support of great partnerships and the willingness of each organization to commit their time, talent and in some cases treasure to build a better pathway to success for our kids" said Larry Plank, Director of K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics Education for Hillsborough County Public Schools which educates more than 211,000 students and is the eighth largest school system in the nation.
Plank was recently called to testify before a congressional committee to reinforce the need for funding of STEM programs, and shared that experience with participants during a STEM policy panel at the conference. "We are well aware that a STEM skill set - inclusive of creativity, problem solving ability and effective communication - is a requirement for all of the jobs of the future, regardless of whether they are in STEM or not".
To learn more about the Tampa Bay STEM Network and how your school or organization can be more involved, please go to www.TampaBaySTEM.org.
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