All children deserve to be inspired by STEM and to reach their full potential, but for many students, the STEM opportunity gap exists even before they start kindergarten. In part, this is because many early childhood teachers, families, and community organizations need support creating and implementing engaging, high-quality, and challenging STEM learning experiences.
In partnership with local partners and private foundations, EDC is building a network of Family STEM Communities. These partnerships will bring early childhood educators and community partners together to support children and families who have historically been denied access and equitable opportunities to engage with high-quality STEM experiences and, ultimately, to see themselves as STEM learners.
What Does a Family STEM Community Do?
The right STEM opportunities can support children’s cognitive development, build their brain architecture, and develop skills such as problem-solving, puzzling, and persevering. At the same time, they promote conceptual understanding, support evidence-based thinking, and foster positive approaches to learning. These are the very skills every child will need to successfully navigate life and work in the 21st century.
Family STEM Communities promote adult-child engagement in explorations, interactions, and conversations that are learner-centered, open-ended, and hands-on and cover a wide variety of topics. They:
- Bring together early childhood programs, schools, community centers, libraries, and museums to improve the quality of teaching and learning in early STEM
- Establish strong partnerships with families to ensure culturally relevant STEM materials and activities
- Provide professional learning support and resources to educators to reach out to families and support quality STEM teaching and learning across settings where children live and learn
- Foster positive attitudes toward STEM so that every child sees themselves as a STEM learner
Why This Matters
When families, teachers, and community members have a shared vision and work together to support children’s STEM dispositions, interests, and competencies, everyone benefits. Families are empowered through engagement within formal and informal learning environments, which in turn empowers them to be their children’s STEM advocates. This work is important because:
- Children’s experiences in the early years lay the foundation for all later learning. Research shows a strong positive relationship between high-quality STEM experiences in children’s early years and their later academic and literacy achievement in school.
- Social relationships and nurturing interactions with trusted adults are key to brain development and learning.
- Families play a critical role in promoting their children’s development and learning.
- Business, industry, and other STEM workforce leaders provide powerful STEM role models for children and adults. This is especially true when these partners reflect children’s and families’ ethnicities and languages, include women as well as men, and work in a variety of STEM jobs and careers in the local community.
Interested in sponsoring or becoming a Family STEM Community? Please join us!
Kristen Reed, Co-Project Director
Jessica Young, Co-Project Director
Funded by Overdeck Family Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the National Science Foundation