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Cincinnati Museum Center and others tackling issue of STEM education access

Next Lives Here summit hosted by University of Cincinnati March 2-4

CINCINNATI – Cincinnati Museum Center (CMC) is joining other community leaders to increase representation and access to STEM study and careers. Together with leaders in education, community development, youth development, business, government and other museums, CMC will hope to find solutions at the three day Next Lives Here summit March 2-4.

The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, collectively known as STEM, are some of the fastest growing career fields, offering opportunities for lucrative employment and advances in services and technology with benefits worldwide. However, lack of access to STEM education, either because of poverty or educator limitations, puts some children at a critical disadvantage in their youth that extends into adulthood. The Next Lives Here: Social Change Innovation Summit is hoping to find the path to a solution by working locally and thinking globally.

“Cincinnati Museum Center is thrilled to participate in the Next Lives Here summit,” says Whitney Owens, chief learning officer at Cincinnati Museum Center. “Our wide range of programming helps cultivate curiosity in learners of all ages, and we believe that STEM education is critical to helping people make informed decisions about their lives and their communities.”

The summit will immerse participants in a deep exploration of barriers, successes, best practices and cutting-edge research with nationally-known local experts and visionaries from across the county. Specifically, it will address how to build a backbone organization to support the work of cross-sector partners with a shared vision, goals and measurement to forge social change.

“Our approach is that knowledge and experience are distributed among those coming together to share and create,” said summit co-designer and facilitator Mike Fleisch, managing member of dpict and a member of The Value Web. “It’s impossible to completely solve large, complex problems in three days, but after a rigorous collaboration, people sense they’ve collectively designed something new and have the hope of actually engaging those problems in the real world.”

As a precursor to the event, Design Impact Co-Founder and Design Director Ramsey Ford conducted interviews with educators, experts, funders and high school and college students in the STEM and collective-impact fields. The research revealed that poverty and its mobility are barriers to equal representation in STEM education and careers. It also showed that involving and equipping teachers in making STEM learning fun and meaningful is invaluable because of the precious time educators spend with students.

“The days of learning by memorizing facts are gone,” says Owens. “We know that learning by applying STEM principles – in hands-on ways that are relevant to learners’ lives – improves understanding and retention. We look forward to working with the Next Lives Here summit to see how we can extend Museum Center’s impact on STEM education to even more members of our community.”

CMC is hoping to add its expertise in STEM outreach and education and also to discover new ways to utilize its platform and resources to expand STEM education access and impact. In addition to daily programming and exhibits in the Duke Energy Children’s Museum and in schools through its Programs-on-Wheels outreach, CMC hosts STEM Girls , a program geared toward girls age 8 to 14 that connects them with women professionals and mentors in STEM fields. Doctors, chemists, biologists, engineers, paleontologists, geologists and more meet with program participants in interactive workshops that allow girls to experience STEM careers firsthand.

CMC’s Early Childhood Science Inquiry Teacher Education (ECSITE) program is a professional development program that helps early childhood educators become more confident in their ability to create inquiry-based science experiences for their students. Since 2009, ECSITE has provided professional development for over 200 early childhood educators at underserved schools. The impact is felt by students in classrooms at over 25 schools.

The Next Lives Here summit is being hosted by the University of Cincinnati through grant funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF). UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services (CECH) was awarded one of ten NSF INCLUDES grants nationwide.

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