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A Model for Immersive STEM Education Lessons from 10 Years of Cross-Sector

From Social Innovations Journal

“When I grow up, I want to build things.”

“When I grow up, I want to fly in space.”

When do children's dreams fall away from youth and teens' aspirations and plans for their future? How do we support all children in pursuing those dreams, especially within STEM careers? The fact is that too many students in the U.S. are underprepared, underrepresented, and overlooked to meet the growing need for competent employees in STEM fields. Here, we present a case study of how an informal STEM education program in Philadelphia leverages cross-sector collaborations to provide high-quality, engaging learning experiences with students from historically underserved schools.

University City Science Center’s FirstHand™ program serves middle and high school students through free, multi-week STEM programming. FirstHand fosters deep partnerships with schools and professionals from STEM companies to curate authentic, mentored learning experiences that are not possible in most Philadelphia classrooms. Through Firsthand, students gain a team of experts, including their teachers at both school and FirstHand, to support their exposure to, exploration of, and planning towards a STEM-focused future.

External evaluators have helped measure the program’s sustained success and understand the broader impact of FirstHand on participants and partners through program observation, pre- and post-program surveys, focus groups and more. In this article, we detail the collaborative model leveraged by FirstHand and suggest how that model can be implemented across different regions and content areas.

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Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing