MetroWest STEM groups join global network

Schools, businesses and nonprofits working to enhance STEM education in the region will soon have the support of an international network of experts.

The MetroWest STEM Education Network, a group that collaborates to improve local science, technology, engineering and math programs, was recently accepted into a far-reaching network of STEM advocates.

Comprised of more than 60 different organizations, the STEM Learning Ecosystems Community of Practice will provide one-on-one coaching to groups in MetroWest, helping them develop cutting-edge programs.

It will also allow local leaders to exchange ideas with others, learning from successful efforts in North America and elsewhere around the globe.

Irene Porro, director of the Christa McAuliffe Center for Integrated Science Learning at Framingham State University, said joining the network will help educators in MetroWest develop more effective programs, tying together lessons in school with after-school clubs, internships and job opportunities in high-tech fields.

“I think we have a lot to offer to other communities outside of MetroWest, but also a lot to learn,” said Porro, director of the MetroWest STEM Education Network, “so I really hope that this is going to be a channel for that.

The McAuliffe Center, which operates under the umbrella of the university, has promoted STEM education for more than 20 years, particularly among students in primary and secondary schools. It was established in 1994 with a heavy concentration on teaching about outer space. Today, students from Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island continue to travel to the center to take part in space simulations, though its mission has broadened to include other forms of science learning.

The center also manages the MetroWest STEM Education Network, which launched in 2007 with the goal of helping disparate groups collaborate to better prepare local students for jobs in STEM fields.

While Massachusetts is home to many leading high-tech companies, Porro said the state has lagged in developing its workforce to meet the demand for skilled workers. The MetroWest STEM Education Network — one of several regional groups launched around the state — brings together representatives of local school systems, colleges and universities, nonprofits, afterschool groups and businesses to improve the workforce pipeline. Members include Framingham State University, Massachusetts Bay Community College, the Framingham Public Schools, Pathways for a Skilled Workforce/Youth Careers, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/Metrowest and the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce.

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