Strength in numbers

The STEAM ecosystem can use your time and talents

We’re all social beings who like to share our passions.

That’s why it’s so rewarding to meet new people, bond over a shared interest and, in many cases, engage in activities that make our communities better places to live.

If that sounds like a good idea, how about this: Want to become part of a STEAM ecosystem?

One definition of a STEAM ecosystem comes from the STEM Funders Network, a group of private and corporate education-focused foundations. According to its website at, such an ecosystem encompasses schools, after-school and summer programs, science centers, museums and other community settings. Structured activities in these sites, added to informal experiences at home, make up a variety of learning experiences for young people.

A learning ecosystem brings together the unique contributions of all these settings to deliver STEAM education for all children. Young people learn how to acquire skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and to use artful integration to apply those skills. It’s a process that starts in childhood and progresses into adolescence and early adulthood.

STEAM ecosystems do far more than engage kids in fun projects. The skills and confidence students gain through these organized pursuits are part of a strategy for preparing them for the demands of the 21st-century job market. Students well versed in STEAM become part of a global citizenry of critical thinking, teamwork and understanding the world in which we live.

If that sounds like a movement you can get behind, there are plenty of opportunities. The Douglas County Partners for Student Success website ( and Facebook page ( together make up a portal into yearlong STEAM activities around the county. We seek to post opportunities for parents, students, educators, mentors, businesses and industry and community leaders who are interested in finding out more about how STEAM can benefit our workplaces, families and local economy.

We also provide information about various upcoming events, such as the Feb. 7 Explore Event at Umpqua Community College, the spring STEAM Extravaganza and the STEAM Summer Institute for educators. In addition, we support a resource lending library with a variety of materials to dig into quality STEAM learning. Our Career-connected Learning Initiative is working to expand opportunities for youth to explore a variety of STEAM careers to take them into their futures. Our youth need adult mentors to help them navigate all these possibilities.

STEAM ecosystems don’t operate in isolation. The concept is similar to work by the Blue Zones Umpqua Project, which is bringing together Douglas County residents to improve the health of individuals and the community at large. One of the features of a healthy community is how its people come together to relate and promote shared goals. Blue Zones folks call such a gathering by the name “moai” (pronounced mow-eye), a Japanese word that refers to meeting for a common purpose. Whether it’s called an ecosystem, a moai or a club, any and all of them help us define and refine our shared goals to improve our lives and prospects for a healthy community.

Keep watching Partners’ Post, our website and Facebook page for the latest developments in STEAM ecosystems and career-connected learning. And find out more at






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