ROI awards $275,000 in grants to community foundations for out-of-school STEM learning opportunities

Community Foundations in each of the 11 counties to sub-grant funds for existing STEM programs or new out-of-school programs

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc., has announced a new grant opportunity to advance K-12 STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning in all of Southwest Central Indiana’s 11 counties. Facilitated through each of Southwest Central Indiana’s community foundations, Advancing Out-of-School STEM Learning Grants will fund programs that engage youth through hands-on activities that add value and extend the school experiences.

Out-of-school STEM learning occurs outside of the traditional school day, including before and after school and summer programs, and may be provided by school districts, community organizations, nonprofits, and cultural institutions such as libraries and museums. Examples of out-of-school STEM programs include robotics clubs, coding programs, makerspaces, STEM camps, industry mentorships, and career exploration experiences.

ROI has granted $25,000 to each of Southwest Central Indiana’s 11 community foundations. In turn, they will make grants available in their counties to extend existing STEM programs or to develop new out-of-school opportunities. Each of the community foundations has discretion to determine the number of sub-grants it distributes and the amount provided for recipients of out-of-school STEM grants.

“Community Foundations throughout Southwest Central Indiana have been, and continue to be, incredible partners in our regional education and workforce development efforts,” said ROI CEO Tina Peterson. “As local conveners and leadership organizations within their own communities, these foundations are closely connected to the education and nonprofit organizations in their areas. As such, they are uniquely qualified to identify the best out-of-school STEM opportunities for youth across our region.”

Southwest Central Indiana is home to over 27,000 jobs in the advanced manufacturing, life sciences, and defense and national security sectors. In April, ROI released its first Occupational Needs Assessment to highlight the education and workforce needs within these sectors in the greater Southwest Central Indiana region. The Assessment emphasized the importance of having a STEM-literate talent pool to meet the workforce needs within the region and to provide a basis for continued job growth and attraction.

ROI’s goals for supporting out-of-school STEM learning include increased:

  • Interest and excitement in STEM learning
  • Understanding of STEM skills, knowledge, and thinking
  • Participation in STEM coursework and pathways by all and especially underrepresented populations
  • STEM literacy to meet the needs of the region’s technology-enabled employment needs.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to expose so many more youth to STEM and the career opportunities that exist in our region,” said Todd Hurst, ROI’s director of education and workforce. “From robotics and LEGO® MINDSTORMS® programs to coding clubs and career exploration, this grant opportunity will serve as a valuable catalyst to sparking and extending interest in STEM learning for students from Kindergarten through high school.”

Community Foundations receiving Advancing Out-of-School STEM Learning Grants include:

  • Brown County Community Foundation
  • Community Foundation of Crawford County
  • Daviess County Community Foundation
  • Dubois County Community Foundation
  • Greene County Foundation
  • Lawrence County Community Foundation
  • Martin County Community Foundation
  • Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County
  • Orange County Community Foundation
  • Owen County Community Foundation
  • Washington County Community Foundation

Additional grant details and application procedures will be released by each Community Foundation separately. Contact each for more information.

The Advancing Out-of-School STEM Learning Grant initiative is one of a series of regional education and workforce initiatives recently announced by ROI.

In July, ROI selected 15 Southwest Central Indiana K-6 educators for its first cohort of STEM Fellows and also announced its first cohort of school districts selected for its Ready Schools Initiative.

STEM Fellows will focus on increasing STEM curricular relevance, supporting peer educators through mentorships, serving as instructional leaders in schools, and bringing teachers and employers together.

The Ready Schools Initiative will provide up to $150,000 in funding to each grantee to support a year-long development process. Grantees will engage district, community, and industry stakeholders to better align educational programming with the workforce opportunities across the Southwest Central Indiana region. The result of this process will be a systemic approach, including STEM curricula, designed to support students in achieving academic and career goals aligned with the workforce opportunities in Southwest Central Indiana.

ROI also convened a 3-day Regional Pathways Institute this summer to bring together education and industry in developing common understandings and begin to articulate how we might, as a region, begin to address pathways in key sector areas. The symposium employed a design thinking process and focus for developing pathways in defense, life sciences, and advanced manufacturing. Stakeholders from K-12 education, higher education, industry, and the community attended and engaged in the process.

About Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc.:

The mission of Regional Opportunity Initiatives, Inc. (ROI) is to support economic and community prosperity in the 11 counties of Southwest Central Indiana (Brown, Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Monroe, Orange, Owen and Washington counties). ROI is implementing education and workforce initiatives and regional engagement initiatives for quality of place development.

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