Part 3: Networking with the STEM Education Centers

NewDay Challenge Award recipient Todd Wackerman is an MBA student at Tulane’s Freeman School.  As he prepares to open his K-12 STEM equipment library for business in 2018, Todd attended the National Conference for the Network of STEM Education Centers, to learn about best practices and network with current professionals in the field. 

The Network of STEM Education Centers is a national group of organizations across the country, dedicated to advancing STEM education through a variety of programming.  Last Friday and Saturday, the NSEC National Conference was held at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans, and STELL was accounted for and active.

I originally discovered the NSEC while completing an assignment for the Changemaker Institute, which directed me to seek out organizations nationally doing similar work to STELL.  I found, among others, SwI STEM in Indiana, who advised me to attend.  And I am thankful that I listened.  While the mission of the NSEC is far more broad than the niche work STELL is doing with equipment and resource access for K-12 teachers, the conference was a hotbed of networking opportunities and like-minded educators to bounce ideas off of, and get feedback on our intended model.

Enjoying breakfast at the K-12 Resource Providers break-out table

In addition to the 3 I have already spoken with met 6 STEM Centers that run lending libraries which never showed up in my google searches.  While this may highlight a problem for them in terms of findability, for me it was a great belated discovery.  Two of them will be included on our driving tour to develop logistics and operations.  Science Express runs a mobile service in northern Indiana, and the University of Central Arkansas is part of a 12 member consortium which shares resources and lends to teachers.  Both stellof these facilities should have thoughtful insights and ideas to share as STELL prepares to open next year.

With that, the next steps are clear.  In August, we will use some of our New Day funding and as well as our Alvarez award to visit six lending libraries over 5 days, and carefully catalog our visits and acquired discoveries across a variety of operational topics, including outreach, lending processes, and storage/upkeep.  Keep in touch and check back soon!