An emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) is already an acknowledged national priority for workforce development and higher education. K-12 districts are finding increasing funding and partnerships for these programs. Here’s a look at some of the options and strategies for acquiring STEAM, from universities to nonprofits.
The U.S. Department of Education
The Department of Education has created a whole raft of formal partnership and funding programs to enhance classroom tech, professional development, and closer ties between classroom and industry. Investing in Innovation, the Teacher Incentive Fund, and the Mathematics and Science Partnerships programs offer grants for school programs and teacher professional development. Similarly, the Teachers for a Competitive Tomorrow and Teacher Quality Partnership Grant programs deliver professional development.
The Department of Education also offers opportunities for industry partnerships, for example through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This program works with NASA, the National Park Service, and other institutions to bring STEAM content to schools, particularly low-income, high-need schools such as Native American communities.
The department’s Race to the Top District program supports personalized learning initiatives as well.
In addition to federal programs, some states have also gone the extra mile and created their own formal STEAM partnership programs with local industry. Michigan is one good case study. This state links its K-12 districts with industry and funds to create programs.
Dow, GM, Bosch, and Siemens are just of few of the supporting companies of Michigan’s initiative. Examples of recent events and partnerships include robot programming for girls, wet lab biotech camps for high schools, and weekend STEAM activities for students in pre-K through fifth grade.
Large, high-profile nonprofit foundations are still a good bet. Established foundation players such as Ford and Carnegie, which tend to focus mainly on policy change and the creation of alternatives like charter schools, are increasingly devoting time and money to K-12 STEAM as well.
The Gates Foundation has contributed to upgrading technology in K-12 classrooms. Another longtime actor, The Noyce Foundation, has taken an offbeat approach and has funded more unconventional, fun, hands-on learning programs and initiatives in K-12 schools, out-of-school programs, and through the support of science museums.
Private industry has also stepped up with funds, particularly for classroom tech and training. These programs often take place on a larger scale, even globally.
For example, Chevron has built labs right into competitively selected schools, while ExxonMobil’s foundation supports professional development academies for teachers such as the Sally Ride Camp. On a broader scale, Europe’s STEM Alliance brings together industries, Ministries of Education, and education stakeholders to promote STEM education and careers to young Europeans with a focus on anticipated future skill gaps within the European Union.
Local universities can also be a surprising fountainhead of STEM partnerships and resources. The New York University (NYU) Tandon School of Engineering operates a smart cities summer program with local schools. This program allows selected gifted high schoolers to do mentored coursework and research in NYU labs. NYU also developed a STEM curriculum for K-12 districts and co-teaches robotics classes in Brooklyn public schools.
Certain directed strategies also can make a real difference in obtaining fuller access to STEAM resources. For example, emphasizing a commitment to diversity and access can help obtain funds. There are significant funding opportunities available to increase STEAM access to underserved districts and schools from such players as Intel, Honda, and Chevron.
Contacting the local corporation or market sector of choice is always a good idea as well, as industries look to build their pipeline of the next generation workforce. Detroit-area schools can look to auto manufacturers for help; California schools can tap into the goodwill of the new Silicon Valley superstars; New York-area schools might approach financial titans; Philadelphia has pharma leaders; and so forth.
Creating science competitions, fairs, and similar events and structures has proven extremely successful in attracting corporation and foundation sponsorship and funding. Siemens and Dow are two Fortune 500s that have entered this space, and there are many others.
Takeaway: STEAM must become a top priority in the nation’s K-12 classrooms. Fortunately to that end, there are more resources and strategies every day to help school districts enter the 21st century by upgrading technology and teacher training, and by partnering with industry.
1. “Eight Ways to Land K-12 STEM Funding” Inside Philanthropy. May 14, 2014.
2. “Grants for K-12” STEMgrants.com. 2016.
3. “Michigan STEM Partnership” Michigan STEM Partnership. 2016.
4. “Toshiba America Foundation” Toshiba. 2016.
5. “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math: Education for Global Leadership” U.S. Department of Education. N.d.
6. “Projects and Initiatives” NYU Tandon School of Engineering. N.d.
7. “Welcome to the STEM Alliance” STEM Alliance. 2016.