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The Greater Philadelphia STEAM Initiative

November 2014

Project Goal:

The goal of the Greater Philadelphia STEAM Initiative is to fundamentally rethink urban education. An innovative new integrated STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and culture, and mathematics) curriculum framework will be developed based on a redefined aim of education that is reflective of the 21st century. A key component of the program is the planned inclusion of informal learning experiences, such as visiting museums and business internships, in the formal curriculum to provide student concrete applications of what is taught in “formal” classroom settings.

Initial Support:

The 21st Century Partnership for STEM Education (21PSTEM), along with several other prominent Philadelphia area partner organizations, received a $150,000 grant from the Barra Foundation to launch the STEAM Initiative. It builds on previous National Science Foundation grants and a current United States Agency for International Development-funded (USAID) grant in Egypt designing new Model STEM schools for their Ministry of Education.

Phase 1 – Nov 6, 2015 to Feb 5, 2016:

During this period  we conducted seven design studios involving 134 people from 74 different organizations to collaboratively create an aspirational statement for the region, a re-casted aim of high school education, and an elaboration of the meaning of that aim.

Aspirational Statement for the Greater Philadelphia Region by 2025:

  • We see a region that is diverse in many dimensions, yet united. It is a region with a vibrant economic and cultural life that offers equitable opportunities for all. Its people are engaged in collaborative civic, economic and cultural efforts to maintain a high quality of life.

  • We see a region with a thriving economy that supports meaningful employment, sustainability and a green infrastructure. It is a region that brings forth prosperity with policies that promote equitability of resources for everyone.

  • We see an education system that leads the way in teaching science, technology, engineering, arts and culture, and mathematics (STEAM), encouraging curiosity and promoting creativity while teaching 21st century skills. Schools, museums, businesses, and cultural centers work together to provide rich, interactive learning experiences for all ages. ALL public schools are well-funded and resourced with skilled teachers having access to and using current teaching materials in collaboration with the rich informal cultural and scientific educational assets of the region. Every school student in the Greater Philadelphia region, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status, has an opportunity to participate and thrive in its economic, civic and cultural life.

  • We see the Greater Philadelphia region as world-class, a place whose people revere the finer moments in their history, while possessing a critical understanding of it; yet who, at the same time, look forward toward a better future. It is a region with a culture of innovation that inspires and draws professionals from all over the world; a hub for STEAM education and careers. It is a place where people work together to achieve a sustainable future from the individual to the global levels.

Aim of Education for STEAM High School Students:

For high school graduates to discover their sense of place in a diverse and united community; who are connected to the regional culture and economy; who can navigate the world around them and understand levels of complexity within their immediate community and beyond; who possess a sense of purpose and resilience; who can learn both independently and collaboratively with the capacity to think critically, solve problems, adapt, thrive, and create a sustainable life and world; and who act responsibly and respectfully toward themselves and others.

Phase 2 Feb 6, 2016 – current:

Research and writing grant proposals for development new model high school.


The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance

The Franklin Institute

Independence Seaport Museum

Philadelphia Education Fund

University City Science Center

Teaching Institute of Excellence in STEM (TIES)


Funding Source: Barra Foundation

  • Start Date: November 2015

  • Duration: 1 Year

  • Total Award: $150,000.00

  • Fiscal Agent: 21PSTEM

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