STEM learning systems. “A big question for us is how we are going to expand diversity of learning opportunities,” she stated.
STEM learning systems need to avoid a cultural deficit model, she said, in which the norms of one culture are imposed on all students. “What is STEM, who is STEM, how do we talk about STEM, where does STEM happen?” asked Bevan. These are all critical questions in thinking about opportunities to build STEM interest.
Finally, she suggested the idea of cultivation as a metaphor. By starting with children’s interests, peer groups, and strengths, STEM learning opportunities can deepen and extend their experiences.
Educators at all levels have a huge amount of work to do to understand and figure out how to implement all the changes needed for effective cross-sector collaboration, said Jennifer Peck, executive director of the Partnership for Youth and Children. Fortunately, she noted, afterschool and expanded learning providers have been focusing on the issues associated with these changes.
Peck referred to the “four Cs” of policy work: collaboration, critical thinking, communication, and creativity. All four of these Cs can be seen in the activities afterschool programs do with students, Peck noted. Students are doing research in their communities, working in teams to find things out, and making presentations where they use technology and multimedia tools. Because of the sophistication of some of this afterschool programming, the education community is more open about including out-of-school providers in the conversation. “The thing I ask myself is how are we maximizing this opportunity and not doing it just in piecemeal ways,” Peck said.
Leadership is one important element in policy and advocacy for cross-sector collaborations, said Peck, but leaders who are willing and eager to collaborate are rare. “It is a very natural tendency for systems and leaders of systems to work in their own boxes,” she said. “Yes, there are policies and rules and regulations that can perpetuate this, but in a lot of cases it is really organizational culture and habits … that keep us in silos.”
A second important policy tool that Peck pointed to is to incentivize collaboration at all levels. Collaboration is hard and can require doing things differently, she said. It can require sharing of resources and sharing of credit. It also can require policy incentives to collaborate more effectively. As an example, she noted that the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program provided a funding stream for afterschool