By Max Milder
Enter a classroom anywhere in the U.S. today, and you will likely encounter a scene that could easily have fit in two or three decades ago. Students are sitting at desks. Teachers are using whiteboards and textbooks. Technology that could illuminate concepts is nowhere to be seen. This occurs not from a lack of imagination, but rather a lack of resources. Many libraries, after-school programs, and museums already provide incredible interactive learning opportunities for students, but don’t have the opportunity to showcase the work that they do or leverage what they have to reach large numbers of students. The result is that too many youths still see science as a series of abstract concepts with little relevance to their lives.
This must change. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields hold the promise of a successful career and the opportunity to discover and explore new ideas. Research has shown that interest in STEM subjects is more important than enrollment in advanced classes in predicting who will choose a STEM career, and hands-on activities like building robots or designing video games can ignite that interest.
US2020 is a new organization that has emerged from a White House call to generate large-scale, innovative solutions to our STEM education challenge. Our goal is to find one million STEM professionals to act as mentors to students and provide more hands-on, experiential learning opportunities, especially for girls, students of color, and low-income children. Our model is built on connecting and leveraging capacities and expertise that already exist across the nation in high-performing organizations, including museums and libraries. By connecting leading youth-serving non-profits with corporate partners who have committed to serving their community, we will create a pipeline of volunteers to organizations who have proven their impact.
For libraries and museums, US2020 can provide the volunteers and best practices that will help them continue to strengthen their programming and scale up to serve larger numbers of students. Our offices are located in the Boston Children’s Museum, so nearly every day we witness the enthusiasm for learning from children entering our building. This is something we can replicate in cities across the U.S. In partnerships with organizations like yours, we will ignite millions of moments of discovery for students, giving them first-hand experience with fascinating career opportunities in science and beyond.
This month, we are launching the US2020 City Competition, which will highlight and support several outstanding efforts to build STEM mentorship capacity at the local level. Three to five cities will share around $1 million in cash and in-kind resources based on their plans to increase STEM mentoring and access for girls, low-income youth, and students of color. In addition, winning cities will benefit from a cohort of service corps members, access to a volunteer-matching database, and a number of other support services. The competition will serve as a catalyst for communities to connect resources and build partnerships to provide moments of discovery for their own students. Visit our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with coalitions forming in cities across the nation!
Max Milder is the US 2020 Fellow and a National Teaching Fellow at Citizen Schools. He serves at the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown, MA. Max has a BA and MPA from Clark University.