STEM Ecosystems conference offers new insights, deeper connections

A recap of the Remake Learning delegation’s trip to the national STEM Ecosystems 2019 Spring Community of Practice Convening, April 3-5.

The Remake Learning Network ushered in April with a trip to New Orleans, for the STEM Ecosystems 2019 Spring Community of Practice Convening. Remake Learning team members LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill and Sunanna Chand attended the three-day conference, along with network members Mackenzie Ball, of University of Pittsburgh’s School of Computing and Information, and LaRae Cullins, of Dream 2 S.T.E.A.M and Wright Childcare Solutions.

The conference offered ample networking, learning, and teaching opportunities for the small-but-mighty Remake Learning delegation.

“I learned about so many different organizations that have so much to offer our youth and families, including quite a few that I didn’t know about, that are doing amazing things,” said Cullins.

Ball walked away with a laundry list of newly discovered organizations and projects, including the Ardendale Project (that’s working on a dual-credit career and technical school), STEM NOLA, and the National Girls Collaborative.

“I learned more about the importance of leveraging the resources of aligned networks,” she added. “To think more deeply about what strategies we are using to encourage collaborative leadership between partners and networks, and that communication is key among an ecosystem or any kind of network.”

Remake Learning coordinates attendance to several regional and national education conferences annually, as a key network infrastructure activity. In recent years, this schedule has included bi-annual conferences hosted by the national STEM Learning Ecosystems.

The Remake Learning Network recognizes STEM and STEAM curriculum as a vital approach to engaging students in creative, challenging, and career-ready learning. The network facilitates the Pittsburgh Regional STE(A)M Ecosystem to connect schools, organizations, and educators from across the learning spectrum with the goal of creating more equitable, accessible, and high-quality learning for local students of all ages. Pittsburgh’s regional ecosystem is one of 68 other ecosystems across the country; together, these comprise the national STEM Learning Ecosystems community of practice.

The community of practice gathers face-to-face at conferences to share information and expertise. This year’s convening coalesced around the theme of family engagement; namely, how ecosystems can improve their engagement with and communication to their local communities.

“We talked about what ‘sharing space’ looks like within our communities and how we can co-develop programs with our local stakeholders who are being served through our work,” said Sherrill.

“It was great to highlight the intentional work that Remake Learning has been part of…and how we have become more laser-focused on our equity pillars,” she added. “It was important to share the fact that we are working to become more inclusive of our community in a real and authentic way.”

Sherrill and Chand also contributed to the family engagement conversation by hosting two individual sessions and a co-facilitated panel discussion. Sherrill teamed up with the STEM Ecosystems of British Columbia for her session, “Relationships, Relevance and Recognition: How Ecosystems can Build Community Through Listening and Story Telling.” She shared how the Remake Learning Network has leveraged consistent storytelling to elevate the voices and accomplishments of those who work with learners daily.

Chand’s session, “Connecting Families to STEM Ecosystems,” brought her together with the Kansas City STEM Alliance and highlighted Remake Learning Days. In particular, it focused on how the festival model has helped introduce STEAM learning directly to parents and caregivers and how the model is now readily available nationwide, via a free, online toolkit.

In addition to themed sessions, the Remake Learning delegation attended a bevy of presentations and events, including the keynote address from Walter Issacson. He cited diverse historical figures – from Leonardo Da Vinci to Steve Jobs – to discuss the importance of recognizing art within innovation.

Other conversations and sessions highlighted:

  • The continued growth and impact of STEM Ecosystems. The national community of practice has grown to 84 communities, both national and international, and STEM Ecosystems were identified in a December 2018 federal report as the top strategy for improving STEM literacy, ensuring a strong, diverse, and equitable workforce, and preparing students to be competitive in a global workforce.
  • An increased focus on measurement, including a related discussion with Educational Results Partnerships and the PEAR institute.
  • Pittsburgh’s seat at the table for national ecosystem discussions, including a meeting of the STEM Ecosystem Advisory Council and a conversation on what diversity, equity, and inclusion can and should look like for the national ecosystem.
  • Exciting collaboration with Pittsburgh’s regional neighbors, including connections with other ecosystems across the state and the state department of education, plus a brainstorm with colleagues from Cleveland about a potential Great Lakes region/Rust Belt city regional STEM conversation and shared policy work.

Looking to future conferences, Sherrill hopes Remake Learning’s attendance will continue to grow.

“I want more members to be able to experience this conference. It’s a great opportunity to learn specific strategies in STEM,” she said.

“[Attending with the network] allowed me to hear and see various viewpoints,” added Cullins. “I was able to make a new connection with a member of our local ecosystem, as well as two members in other ecosystems that are going to be dynamic collaborations.”

To get involved with the Pittsburgh Regional STEM Ecosystem, checkout And to learn more about Remake Learning delegations to this or other conferences, contact us!

Published April 18, 2019