Implementing the Greening STEM Approach at Your School or Organization

Collaborative, Multi-stakeholder Partnerships: School or District/Public Land or Water Field Site Agency/Community Group

The first thing to decide when implementing Greening STEM, is who you want to partner with to collaboratively develop and deliver the STEM learning activities. Setting aside the environmental topic or issue that will be explored, consider the following questions.

  • Within your school, district or organization, who can contribute their expertise, skills, and time to help launch an interdisciplinary project-based approach?
  • Outside of your coworkers, who in the public lands or waters community can contribute resources, such as staff, to a series of place-based learning activities?
  • How will any expenses be covered?

Thoroughly exploring these questions can lead to successful implementation.

Who else should be involved and why?

Start by making a list of likely tangible and intangible needs, such as transportation or funding, for the project. Next, add any potential internal or external partners that could provide those resources. Also, consider how decision makers will be integrated into the partnership. Will they be intimately involved or just sign-off when the time comes?

How to find and connect with local partners

Depending on the topic selected for your program, good places to look for potential partners include:

  • Public land or water management agencies
  • Natural resource agencies
  • Public works departments
  • Public utilities
  • Non-profit organizations
  • Businesses in your community that employ STEM literate workers

Some may already be interested in developing STEM-based learning activities and others may have educational programs that can be incorporated into yours.

Deciding on a topic or issue early will help identify needed partners.

Before contacting potential partners, it is good to have identified the ways these agencies or organizations can potentially help your program.

  • Can they provide a field site as an outdoor classroom?
  • Can they provide staff with technical expertise as volunteer co-educators?
  • Can they provide needed gear or equipment?
  • Can they provide transportation or funding?

It is important to develop a checklist of questions for each type of partner.

Before contacting potential partners, you should prepare a “pitch” to hook their attention, spark their curiosity, and suggest how they will benefit from getting involved. It is okay to have a generic inquiry. However, adapting your appeal to include information about the potential partner and ways they can help will show them you are serious about including them in your project.

You may consider asking them if they would recommend anyone else that might be interested in your project. You can ask, “Who else should I be talking to?”

And don’t get discouraged! It may take more than one phone call or email to connect with a potential partner. Remember, you are developing a relationship that is a good fit and long-lasting.

Defining partner roles and responsibilities

To establish accountability and mutual trust, you should make sure that partner roles and processes are defined and agreed upon. Ideally, partners will truly collaborate to develop a series of Greening STEM education activities that would be unachievable individually.

Types of Relationships: A Continuum

Internal partners, such as a team of teachers or coworkers, will likely trust and be accountable to one another.

Fundamental first steps when working with external partners include the following:

  • Agreeing upon a leadership structure
  • Establishing the means and frequency of communications
  • Defining the decision-making process

Creating a project timeline that identifies important milestones and who is responsible for achieving them, will help ensure the right partners are involved and mutually committed. If needed, a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or contract can confirm these agreements.

Example Partnership: Roles & Responsibilities

Funding sources for Greening STEM

You can use already budgeted field trip funding to pilot a Greening STEM field experience. It’s one way to start small and demonstrate to decision makers and potential partners the value of this approach.

You can apply for a Hands on the Land competitive mini-grant of up to $5,000 to start or expand field-based programming. Hands on the Land is a national network of public land and water field sites that partner with schools, districts, and non-profit organizations to provide place-based learning that focuses on real-world issues and conservation education.

Finally, private foundations and government agencies are two additional funding sources that offer a range of grants.

  • Congressional appropriations have included funding for states and districts, through the Every Student Succeeds Acts (ESSA) Title IV, Part A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program, to support science and STEM education. Title I funding for school-wide programs, 21st Century Learning Centers funding, and Title II Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) grants Supporting Effective Instruction may be available to support large-scale programs.
  • Private foundations and government agencies such as NOAA’s B-WET (Bay Watershed Education and Training) grants that provide competitive funding to support meaningful watershed educational experiences for K–12 audiences.
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