Sign up for updates. Be part of our community.

Science Center receives $4M federal grant to improve middle school STEM programming

From Philadelphia Business Journal

The University City Science Center received a $3.975 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve its STEM education program for underserved middle school students.

The funding will be used over five years to give 300 West Philadelphia students access to FirstHand, the Science Center’s longstanding after-school program to introduce students to careers in STEM through mentorship and exposure to different technologies.

More than half of funding will also be used to conduct an evaluation of the program to determine how FirstHand impacts students' identities, their competencies and their skills, said Maya Heiland, director of STEM education initiatives for the Science Center. Consulting firms AnLar LLC and Palmer Wolf Corporation will conduct the evaluation and determine how the Science Center can refine FirstHand.

The grant legitimizes out-of-school learning programs like Firsthand, Heiland said.

“We believe now that it's not just the traditional classroom learning that is important to a student’s learning experience, but that the out-of-school-time program can have a significant impact on their life choices, like viewing the world and understanding themselves in terms of identity, understanding themselves as a scientist or not a scientist,” she said.

The Department of Education grant is part of a $182 million package through the Education Innovation and Research program awarded to 30 school districts, higher education institutions and nonprofits. It is the first federal grant FirstHand has received since it was launched in 2014, Heiland said.

The federal funding will be used to bring FirstHand to students attending eight West Philadelphia schools:

  • Alain Locke School
  • Belmont Charter Middle School
  • Chester A. Arthur School
  • James Rhoads Elementary School
  • John F. McCloskey School
  • KIPP West Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School
  • S. Weir Mitchell Elementary School
  • Science Leadership Academy Middle School

About 300 students over the next five years will be supported by the DOE grant, Heiland said.

Media Contact:

Kristen Fitch

Kristen Fitch

Senior Director, Marketing