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By: Bradie | December 1 2009 | Category: Issues in Education

Last week, the President identified three overarching priorities for science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education:

  • increasing STEM literacy so all students can think critically in science, technology, engineering, and math;
  • improving the quality of math and science teaching so American students are no longer outperformed by students in other nations; and
  • expanding STEM education and career opportunities for underrepresented groups, including women and minorities.

He believes that America needs a world-class STEM workforce to address the "grand challenges" of the 21st century. "Reaffirming and strengthening America's role as the world's engine of scientific discovery and technological innovation is essential to meeting the challenges of this century," said President Obama in the White House last Tuesday. In the same speech, he announced his "Educate to Innovate" campaign for excellence in STEM education.


The Obama administration also recently directed the $4.35 billion Race to the Top school grant program to give preference to states that commit to improving STEM education. 


In his November 24 speech, the President made the point that although Federal leadership is necessary, real change in STEM education requires the participation of many elements of society, including governors, philanthropists, scientists, engineers, educators, and  parents as well as the private sector. In an address to the National Academy of Sciences last spring (April 27), President Obama challenged all Americans to join the cause of making STEM education a national priority.


In his recent speech, the President announced a series of high-powered partnerships dedicated to motivating and inspiring young people across the country to excel in science and math. These partnership commitments, taken together, are valued at more than $260 million in financial and in-kind support. Their mission is to provide new and creative ways to generate and maintain student interest in -- and enthusiasm about -- science and math. Partners include

  • leading companies,
  • foundations,
  • nonprofit organizations, and
  • science and engineering societies.

Other initiatives announced by the President are

  • five public-private partnerships that harness the power of media, interactive games, hands-on learning, and 100,000 volunteers (you and me) to reach more than 10 million students over the next four years, inspiring them to be the next generation of makers, discoverers, and innovators;
  • a commitment by leaders such as Sally Ride (the first female astronaut), Craig Barrett (former chairman of Intel), Ursula Burns (CEO, Xerox), Glenn Britt (CEO, Time Warner Cable), and Antonio Perez (CEO, Eastman Kodak) to increase the scale, scope, and impact of private sector philanthropic support for STEM education;
  • the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which will support the coalition of Ride, Barrett, Burns, Perez, and others to recruit private sector leaders to serve as champions for STEM education at the state level, mobilize resources to help scale successful STEM innovations, and raise awareness of the importance of STEM education among parents and students; and 
  • an annual science fair to be held at the White House that will showcase the student winners of national competitions in areas such as science, technology, and robotics.

I'll summarize the first five public-private partnerships of the Educate to Innovate campaign below.


Time Warner Cable's "Connect a Million Minds" Campaign: Time Warner Cable, in partnership with FIRST Robotics and the Coalition for Science after School, is launching a campaign to connect over 1 million students to highly engaging afterschool STEM activities that already exist in their area. The company will use its media platform, public service announcements (PSAs), 47,000 employees, and the Web site to connect a child to STEM. More than 70,000 parents and community members have already pledged at the Web site to make that connection for a child. Time Warner Cable has also made a commitment of $100 million over the next five years to support this campaign and will target 80% of its corporate philanthropy to STEM education.


Discovery Communications' "Be the Future" Campaign: In partnership with leading research universities and Federal agencies, Discovery Communications is launching a five-year $150 million cash and in-kind "Be the Future" Campaign. The goal is to create content that reaches more than 99 million homes. It will include a PSA campaign across Discovery's 13 U.S. networks, a dedicated commercial-free educational kids block on the Science Channel, and programming on the grand challenges of the 21st century (such as the landmark Curiosity series). Discovery Education will also create rich, interactive education content and deliver it at no cost to approximately 60,000 schools, 35 million students, and 1 million educators. Through its partnership with the Siemens Foundation, Discovery will create a national education resource for teachers, STEM Connect.


Sesame Street's Early STEM Literacy Initiative: Sesame Street is celebrating its 40th anniversary. With First Lady Michelle Obama as a guest on the first episode and with PNC Bank as a partner, Sesame Street is announcing a major focus on science and math for young children and a $7.5 million investment in the effort. Twenty of the 26 new episodes will focus on STEM: 13 on science and 7 on math. In addition, Sesame Workshop and partner PNC Bank's Grow Up Great Program are announcing a new math initiative for preschool children called Math Is Everywhere.

"National Lab Day" Bringing Hands-on Learning to Every Student: National Lab Day is a historic, grassroots, online effort to bring hands-on learning to 10 million students by upgrading science labs, supporting project-based learning, and building communities of support for STEM teachers. The effort is a partnership between almost 4 million educators and science and engineering societies representing more than 2.5 million STEM professionals. The project has strong financial support from the Hidary Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and industry partners. Collectively, this partnership is committed to working with more than 10,000 teachers and 1 million students within a year and 100,000 teachers and 10 million students over the next four years.

National STEM Game Design Competitions: The MacArthur Foundation, Sony Computer Entertainment America, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), and partners (the Information Technology Industry Council, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and Microsoft) are launching a nationwide set of competitions that includes designing compelling, freely available STEM-related video games for children and youth. The competitions will include the 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition, a $2 million yearly effort supported by the MacArthur Foundation that advances the most innovative approaches to learning through games, social networks, and mobile devices. One of the competitions, open only to children, will help participants develop 21st-century knowledge and skills as they design a game. This year, Sony will participate in one segment of the competition and encourage students to develop new games that build on the popular videogame Little Big Planet.

Questions for today:

  • After reading this summary, do you believe the President's Educate to Innovate initiative is a workable way to resolve some of the issues around STEM education?
  • The President's initiative calls for tens of thousands of volunteers. Are there places you could volunteer your talent and some of your time?

Bradie Metheny


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