Global STEM Alliance Engages Youth and Mentors In Grand Challenges

Global student learning

The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS) is a 200 year old scientific membership organization. They convene scientists and enthusiasts holding more than 125 events annually on topics ranging from sustainability, nutrition, to science policy.

About 10 years ago, NYAS added hands regional work in K-12 to their public awareness agenda. They developed afterschool programs, trained scientist as mentors and connected them with classroom teachers.

Two years ago NYAS published a report on the STEM Paradox–there are a record number of STEM grads and still unfilled jobs. The report concludes that low numbers of graduates have the job requirements, there is “brain drain” from developing countries, and a lack of women and people of color in STEM fields.

To address the paradox, Celina Morgan-Standard, SVP of business development, said “We focus on the pipeline, particularly the 21st-century skills– kindergarten to career.” She said access to mentors is a critical component, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”

Global STEM Alliance

The Global STEM Alliance (developed by NYAS) is a coalition of more than 250 organizations united in their commitment to increase the number and diversity of students in the STEM pipeline.

Combining their commitment to equity through mentorship, NYAS launched 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures to connect girls aged 13-19 around the world to STEM mentors.

NYAS holds an annual summit on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to review progress and outline next steps towards reaching the #GlobalGoals.

Hank Nourse leads NYAS content development and instructional design. He said their approach to STEM education articulates best practices, emphasizes 21st-century skills and active learning and helps to identify needed support.

Developed with SRI and a global advisory the STEM framework includes core competencies such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration, data literacy, STEM mindset, agency, leadership and ethics.

Junior Academy recruits STEM experts to coach talent student teams age 13-18. More than 1300 students (out of 11,000 applicants) from 112 countries pick innovation challenges, access resources and collaborate on solutions. Two-thirds of the participants are young women and four out of ten are young people of color and from low-income backgrounds.

Students and mentors connect from anywhere on the interactive Launchpad platform developed in partnership with Andela, the Nigerian coding bootcamp.

The goal of the Junior Academy is to unlock global talent and encourage innovative solutions to global challenges. The Launchpad platform is organized around the sustainable development goals.

Challenges–like clean water, sustainability, smart cities and biodiversity–are often sponsored by companies or corporate foundations.

Each challenge includes great learning content and design thinking resources. Discussions include timelines, rules and tips from peer and mentors.

Students spend 200 to 300 hours on each project. Their contributions are captured in digital profiles.

A recent survey conducted across Asia shows that the majority of students like STEM, but that students and teachers want better resources. It’s that global STEM learning opportunity gap that NYAS is trying to close.

For more on engaging students on #GlobalGoals see:

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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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