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Coalition Offers $2 Million Grant for "Moonshot" STEM Early-Ed. Projects

By guest blogger Taylor Lewis

A coalition of government agencies, private companies and nonprofits is offering a $2 million grant for "moonshot" ideas to enrich early childhood STEM education.  

Following a series of engineering-focused grants awarded last year by its partners, 100Kin10 is providing the "Early Childhood STEM Learning Challenge Grant" for organizations that will develop a project to provide active learning environments for younger students in science, technology, engineering and math. The coalition will award up to 10 grants.

The coalition of more than 280 partners was created with the "moonshot" goal of bringing 100,000 qualified STEM teachers to classrooms across the nation by 2021.

In an analysis of the challenges to its objective last year, the organization found that early elementary educators often felt insecure about teaching STEM, and that students often learned those subjects in a rote manner. So the coalition would need to push for active education in addition to quality teacher support.

According to 100Kin10's founder, Talia Milgrom-Elcott, that includes everything from maker education to do-it-yourself programs—any project-based learning that gets kids involved in their education.

"There's some pretty strong evidence that—especially for girls and kids of color—active engagement in STEM piques interest early, gives them core skills, and keeps them in the pipeline," said Milgrom-Elcott, noting also that children are naturally curious.

The grant emphasizes experimentation along with its collaborative element. Milgrom-Elcott said that she wants to encourage innovation in addressing the coalition's ambitious goal.

"Let's not re-create the wheel. Let's understand what's happened before us and let's build off of that," she said in a phone interview.

She also stressed that such creativity means knowing how the barriers to achieving quality STEM education are felt in the real world. "Don't just theorize in it your boardroom, or in your office. Get out into the classroom, into the field, and understand how the challenge is actually being experienced," 

This is the second award of its kind offered by the coalition, which was formed in the wake of President Barack Obama's 2011 call for more STEM teachers

Milgrom-Elcott said that she hopes this year's announcement will attract other funders, as it did last year when grant recipient projects included a San Francisco mobile-engineering lab.

Applications will open this September, with a deadline of October 26.

CORRECTION: The original version of this item misstated the number of partners in 100Kin10. It is 280. This post has also been updated with additional information about the awarding of grants through the 100Kin10 campaign.


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