Earlier this month, a group of OC STEM members and partners were among leaders from 27 state and regional networks who met at the White House as part of the first gathering of the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative. Created by the national STEM Funders Network, this new initiative is designed to bring STEM to life for all young people in real-world, high-quality and engaging ways. A STEM learning “ecosystem” creates connected, equitable learning opportunities for students throughout their community, both within and outside of school.

“There is a need for everyone committed to STEM education to come together,” said STEM Funders Network co-chairs Gerald Solomon, executive director of the Samueli Foundation, and Ron Ottinger, executive director of the Noyce Foundation. “Our students need to experience STEM learning in a coherent and connected way. These 27 communities are joining together in their communities and also learning across contexts to support STEM learning for all.”

Those representing Orange County (pictured above) were:

  • Jeff Hittenberger, Ph.D., Chief Academic Officer, Orange County Department of Education
  • Paula Golden, Executive Director, Broadcom Foundation
  • Gerald Solomon, Executive Director, Samueli Foundation
  • Christine Olmstead, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent, Instructional Services Division, Orange County Department of Education
  • Linda Christopher. Ed.D., Executive Director, OC STEM Initiative
  • Katherine Bihr, Ed.D., Vice President of Programs and Education, Tiger Woods Foundation
  • CynDee Zandes, Technical Assistance Consultant for California and Arizona
  • Rick Singer, President and Chief Executive Officer, Tiger Woods Foundation
  • Christina Altmayer, Executive Director, Children & Families Commission of Orange County (not pictured)

Along with the OC STEM Initiative, Southern California is also being represented by several other teams in this first cohort: Los Angeles Regional STEM Hub, San Diego EcosySTEM, and Ventura County STEM. A complete list, as well as more information about the initiative, can be found at the STEM Learning Ecosystems Initiative website.

This meeting served as an unprecendented opportunity for these leaders to connect with each other to support their shared goal of bringing together local communities in support of STEM learning for all students. The participants discussed issues such as STEM and equity, family engagement, and connections between in- and out-of-school programs. According to Ellen Lettvin, senior Noyce fellow at the U.S. Department of Education. “Forging connections between learning contexts has tremendous potential to impact STEM education nationwide.”