In recent years, there has been growing awareness of the need for strengthened STEM education and many new investments and players focused on STEM. A critical starting point for your STEM system-building work is to understand the landscape of players interested in STEM and engage key stakeholders in developing a vision and plan for STEM in afterschool. The work to engage key partners and the work to map the landscape of afterschool and STEM efforts described in Step II is iterative; state system-builders typically identify and engage a core group of players in a planning group, use that group to help them map the field, and continually work to engage additional players identified through the mapping process.  

The focus on STEM made it possible for STEM system-builders to engage new partners, particularly business leaders, higher education, leaders of STEM-rich institutions and public officials and agency leaders interested in workforce and economic development. It also helped state networks to deepen and add new momentum to existing partnerships, particularly with State Departments of Education. In many states, it opened the door for deeper conversations and partnerships between formal and informal STEM initiatives.

System Building Strategies & Tips

  • Highlight informal science in afterschool as part of the solution to the problem of limited interest, proficiency and engagement of many young people in STEM subjects in school and careers over the long term. This focus will help to broaden your base of partners to include industry, workforce development and higher education partners.  
  • Get partners to the table by participating in development of a broad vision for STEM in afterschool – keep them there with clear priorities and action.
  • Be clear about staff and partner roles in building your system.
  • Seek to position your network as a hub of collaboration at the state level around STEM in afterschool. How you position yourself will depend on the existing landscape in your state. You may need to establish a dedicated planning body within your afterschool network to address STEM in afterschool; you may identify an existing statewide STEM planning body to participate in; or you may decide to do both. Some network leaders have both convened a group within their network to focus specifically on STEM in afterschool and participated in larger statewide groups focused on STEM education generally.
  • Use your access to lessons learned in other states, information on curricula, training approaches and evaluation tools to be a resource to statewide STEM initiatives. Offering your time and expertise to help convene, facilitate or staff the work of statewide STEM initiatives can be an important means of wielding influence over them and helping to ensure that afterschool is included as part of the STEM solution in your state.  
  • Broker new connections between afterschool providers and the growing field of STEM-rich institutions that are bringing new opportunities for learning to both providers and students in afterschool settings. 

State Examples

Influencing Statewide STEM Initiatives

Maryland Out of School Time Network

Maryland Out of School Time Network was invited to chair the subcommittee for authentic learning experiences in STEM in the State Department of Education’s STEM Education Planning Process and is using this opportunity to include both formal and informal perspectives in this process.  

Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership

The Massachusetts Afterschool Partnership (MAP) was able to engage the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, the Massachusetts Pipeline Fund and Executive Office of Education to leverage funds to support informal STEM learning opportunities. The network advocated for the role of informal STEM opportunities in the student interest portion of the Council’s work as the State redrafted its STEM standards. These efforts have positioned MAP as a lead expert on STEM in afterschool while being able to recommend budgetary guidelines to the council. As the legislature moved to codify the Governor’s STEM council to assure its presence when a new administration is sworn in next year, it modified the makeup of the council to include a representative of the out of school time field. The latest Request for Proposals to the Regional STEM Networks was changed to include priority points for submitting proposals that strategically focused on afterschool collaboration across the region. As of 2014, the collective partnerships have directed $1.7 million toward informal STEM initiatives. 

Michigan Afterschool Partnership

The Michigan After-School Partnership participates in the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) Career Inspiration Advisory Committee, which is rolling out a statewide initiative to advise on STEM and entrepreneurship, collaborating with the Michigan Department of Education and the Workforce Development Agency. 

Convening Multiple Players to Address STEM

Indiana Afterschool Network

The Indiana Afterschool Network created and supports the Indiana Afterschool STEM Taskforce which provides the core infrastructure and leadership for the informal STEM system in Indiana. In the first year alone, they experienced a 53 percent growth in the active representatives in the state. The Taskforce works closely with other leading STEM initiatives in the state, including those led by the Indiana Department of Education, I-STEM Resource Network (university coalition) and an informal coalition of industry leaders in advanced manufacturing and defense. All of these initiatives have representatives on the Taskforce and work actively to make additional connections and intersections with their work. New and deeper partnerships are evolving on a regular basis such as partnering with the STEMx network on how they can work toward improved policies for STEM in the state.  

Partnering with Business and Industry to Promote and Support STEM in Afterschool

Missouri Afterschool Network

The Missouri AfterSchool Network has engaged leadership from the Chamber of Commerce, who are interested in ensuring that students build strong skills and interest in jobs in STEM industries. Chamber leadership is chairing the Network STEM committee. Additionally, MASN has provided mini-grants to local Chambers of Commerce to bring together key business leaders, K-12 education leaders and afterschool program administrators to plan a local STEM summit during which they identify local STEM partnership priorities. In November 2013 the Network cosponsored a STEM summit with the Chamber of Commerce. The Network ensured that afterschool programming had its own track focus at the summit.

Tools & Resources

Iowa Governor's Stem Council

List of the Iowa Governor’s STEM advisory Executive Committee and council members, as well as background information on the work of the council. 

Maryland OST STEM Systems Building Core Planning Group Powerpoint

This PowerPoint presentation from an early meeting of the Core Planning Group for OST STEM systems building in Maryland provides an overview of the charge of the group and the role of participants as well as key debrief questions.

Maryland STEMPOSIUM Program

Maryland held a meeting for stakeholders from around the state to introduce them to the STEM System Building Strategic Plan developed by a core group, elicit feedback and engage them in implementation.  The program contains the STEMPOSIUM agenda, the list of participants in the core planning group and a description of the planning process.

South Carolina Education Summit on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

The South Carolina Afterschool Alliance's Education Summit on STEM provides an example of a legislator invitation.

South Carolina Afterschool Alliance STEM in the Arts In and Out of School Summit Program provides information on workshop sessions and sponsors.