NJ STEM Pathways Ecosystems Attend National Meeting in Fla.

Members of the Secretary’s New Jersey STEM Pathways Network ecosystems met Tuesday, April 25 in Tampa, Florida. The New Jersey team joined 37 other ecosystems from around the country in a convening sponsored by the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES), the STEM Funders Network and the Overdeck Family Foundation.

Four communities in New Jersey were chosen Sept. 29, 2016 to participate in a national campaign to reimagine the delivery of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education for children in grades K-12.

Jobs in STEM are the jobs of the future. Labor forecasts predict more than 200,000 New Jersey jobs in STEM fields must be filled by 2025. To begin to meet the need, the New Jersey STEM Pathways Network chose four communities to work with a national organization that will show them how to provide the STEM education and experiences students need to succeed in college, career, and life.

“I am excited to see this level of collaboration among our New Jersey educators, entrepreneurs, businesses and industries,” Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno said in a statement. “We know we must improve STEM education opportunities in our State. We are not where we need to be, and we have to work together to make sure that our children are prepared to compete in the world’s economy.”

The STEM Pathways Network started in early 2015 when Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks brought together a group of educators, entrepreneurs and industry leaders to suggest ways to improve K-12 STEM education.

The Network is chaired by Laura Overdeck, Founder and President of Bedtime Math and Chair of the Overdeck Family Foundation. She cited the importance of having organizations with long, successful histories of working with children.

“We are excited to announce the launch of four New Jersey STEM Learning Ecosystems across our State. This White House-backed national initiative connects STEM resources within and across local districts, so K-12 schools, after-school programs, universities, museums and other learning centers, and corporations can work together to build and reinforce our students’ STEM and 21st Century skills,” said Overdeck.

The Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM (TIES), a growing national organization which is already managing 37 STEM projects to benefit children in areas around the nation as diverse as California, Ohio, and North Carolina, received a $300,000 grant from the Overdeck Foundation to get the New Jersey project off the ground. Key to the idea is that each “community” is an integrated ecosystem, where schools, colleges, businesses and educators work together with students and parents to prepare for the STEM jobs that will drive the economy in the future.

Secretary Hendricks praised Overdeck’s leadership of the Network and emphasized the value of having a national group guide the campaign.

“We had an impressive pool of 11 applicants, and I am very pleased with the ideas and level of innovation shown by the four communities who will be working with the national group,” said Secretary Hendricks. “Having TIES guide the project will make all the difference in how quickly we achieve success.”

A description of the projects, announced in a ceremony Thurs. at the Mercer County Community College Conference Center, follows:

South Jersey STEM and Innovation Center:

The South Jersey STEM and Innovation Center seeks to convene its large network of partners to improve STEM program delivery in public education and commit to an innovative approach developed by Stanford University’s “Collective Impact” model. Focusing on community engagement, the Center will initially serve 85,000 families across Camden, Salem and Cumberland counties.

Delran STEM Ecosystem Alliance:

The Delran STEM Ecosystem Alliance will assist students to graduate with STEM knowledge, skills and applied learning capabilities necessary for success in STEM college education and careers. Aligned with the mission of the Department of Education, the Alliance will service 3,000 students in Delran, Burlington County by maximizing access to high-quality STEM education for all students, preparing students to achieve proficiency in STEM fields (particularly women, people of color & special needs populations) and supporting educators who teach STEM subjects to ensure they have access to the resources they need.

Liberty STEM Alliance:

The Liberty STEM Alliance, located in Jersey City, a major urban center with a population of more than 260,000, will serve as the central information hub to increase knowledge of and participation in STEM services available to youth, adults, educators and families throughout the Hudson County area.

Newark STEAM Coalition:

The Newark STEAM Coalition will create a resource-rich ecosystem to prepare over 100,000 Newark students, as well as the Essex County community, to fully participate in a 21st Century STEM/STEAM workforce. The Coalition’s goal is to develop Newark’s future STEM/STEAM workforce by closing education, access and opportunity gaps through collaborations among businesses, institutions of higher education, school district leadership, youth service providers, science and cultural institutions, and workforce development agencies to align STEM/STEAM education with New Jersey’s projected economic growth.

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