When I was first accepted into the PULSE program, and was matched with the Philadelphia Education Fund, people asked me what I would be doing. I happily gave a nice answer, memorized from my assignment document, but I really didn’t have any idea what it would be like, and what I’d actually be doing. I’ve now been on assignment for 6 weeks, and I can happily answer that question in much greater detail!
What is STEM? STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education, and it’s an area of keen interest globally.
Why is STEM education important in the United States? In the ten year period from 2005-2015, the number of STEM related jobs in the United States grew over 24%! These fields enjoy an overall higher pay scale, lower rates of unemployment, and the number of fields that require students to be STEM literate are growing as technology advances.
What about Pennsylvania? Pennsylvania is the 9th most densely populated U.S. state, the 6th largest GDP in the county, and accounts for nearly 4% of the national GDP. And you guessed it, the job market in PA is looking pretty darn STEM focused! Nearly 10% (~590K) of the jobs created in Pennsylvania through 2026 will be STEM-related, however, there is currently a large gap between the number of job openings and the number of qualified applicants. This year, Governor Tom Wolf announced the PASmart program, which will invest ~$50M into a multi-pronged workforce development initiative, to address gaps, and create a more STEM literate and capable workforce.
Where does the Philadelphia Education Fund (PEF) come in? Founded in 1985, PEF drives exceptional outcomes for all students by developing great teachers and building paths to college and career success. The Education Fund has been at the center of school reform in the city for more than 30 years, and continues to guide and support school district administrations while providing objective oversight on behalf of those in the city and surrounding region that have an active interest in public education.
The McKinney Center, established in 2009 by chemistry teacher Donald McKinney, was launched as PEF’s Math and Science Coalition. In 2016, after Don passed away, and in recognition of his commitment to and passion for STEM education, PEF reorganized its STEM initiatives as the Donald McKinney Center for STEM Education.
The vision of the McKinney Center is that all Philadelphia students graduate high school with strong STEM knowledge and skills, and we do this through several core activities; providing STEM professional development and resources to classroom teachers and informal educators; administering the Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem; and coordinating the Explore STEM Philly program, through which STEM professionals and tutors connect with, support, and inspire K-12 students.
So that is a whirlwind tour of where I have been, and what I have been learning and doing for the last 6 weeks! I’ll blog again soon, with details on my projects, my journey, random musings, and maybe another Star Wars reference thrown in for good measure. But for now, I just want to thank everyone I have been working with and learning from. From my manager, to the amazing woman in the PEF office, to the Philadelphia educators I have been working with. You are heroes!