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Developing the smart city workforce: It doesn't always happen in the classroom


The news release below describes a collaboration between Council Lead Partner CH2M and the Nature Conservancy to provide STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) mentoring for students at a Pennsylvania high school. Their approach? Take the students out of the classroom, put them together with professionals and build a stormwater infrastructure project. It's an ambitious undertaking, but giving students the opportunity to work on a real-world project is a proven way to help ensure that they understand and maintain an interest in STEM fields. And as you know, smart cities need a work force skilled in those professions to be successful and competitive. — Doug Peeples


Innovative Public-Private Partnership Honored at White House for Excellence in STEM Mentoring

The US2020 STEM Mentoring Awards are a platform to celebrate and encourage exceptional work in the STEM mentoring field. The Award for Excellence in Public-Private Partnerships recognizes the CH2M Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and W.B. Saul High School’s innovative, cross-sectoral approach to connecting students with talented science and engineering professionals and provide real-world STEM learning opportunities.

“We are honored to receive this award, which recognizes that we can achieve bigger and better outcomes working together than we can on our own. Our collaboration makes us stronger and more effective, and we are thrilled about the opportunity for CH2M engineering professionals and Conservancy scientists to pass their knowledge and passion on to students through mentorship in real world green engineering projects,” said Ellen Sandberg, executive director of the CH2M Foundation and vice president of community investment.

In December 2015, the CH2M Foundation awarded a $200,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy to develop a green infrastructure—a resilient approach to water management—and STEM education pilot project at W.B. Saul High School’s campus in Philadelphia. Throughout 2016 and 2017, CH2M engineers and Conservancy scientists will work directly with students and faculty to design and construct a green infrastructure project on the school’s campus to work to address stormwater quantity and quality concerns. 

“Studies show that informal science learning outside the classroom plays a crucial role in sustaining long-term understanding and interest in STEM fields,” said Brigitte Griswold, director of youth engagement programs for The Nature Conservancy. “The students who attend W.B. Saul High School will be leading the development of this green engineering solution right on their campus. This partnership will help further students’ understanding, interest and engagement in STEM principles, as well as model career paths that will help develop the next generation of STEM leaders in our country.”

The goal of the partnership is twofold: to engage students in science and engineering to increase student interest in green STEM careers through access to mentors and project-based learning, and to engage the school community around the value of green infrastructure solutions, which may include bioswales, pocket wetlands, green roofs, or rain gardens, that create healthier urban environments.

“The W.B. Saul School is thrilled to be a part of this initiative and extend learning opportunities to students through the living laboratory of our 130-acre campus,” said Tamera Conaway, principal of W.B. Saul High School. 

“With this grant, teachers will be able to provide a true hands-on application of the agricultural curriculum that is currently being taught. The grant will enable Saul's teachers' to be at the forefront of teaching environmental technology," added Jessica McAtamney, agricultural dean of W.B. Saul High School.  

“We are mentoring young leaders in green STEM principles and increasing green infrastructure in urban Philadelphia by leveraging our scientific expertise alongside CH2M’s engineering and infrastructure capabilities. Through this partnership, we are working toward creating a world where people and nature thrive together today and into the future,” said Julie Ulrich, urban conservation program director for The Nature Conservancy’s Pennsylvania chapter.