The Philadelphia Education Fund will launch the Donald McKinney Center for STEM Education on Friday at a “Beaker Toast” held at the Quorum at the University City Science Center.
The center intends to increase access to and engagement in science, technology, engineering and math for all Philadelphia K-12 students and educators through the rebranding, reorganization, and expansion of the Ed Fund’s ongoing STEM initiatives.
The McKinney Center memorializes Donald McKinney, who taught chemistry for 30 years at Radnor High School. In 2009, he created the Ed Fund’s Math and Science Coalition, a citywide partnership of representatives from corporations, universities, nonprofit organizations, and the School District of Philadelphia dedicated to improving the quality of math and science instruction in Philadelphia public schools.
“When he created the Math and Science Coalition, he infused his love of science, passion for education, phenomenal work ethic, and ability to connect people, disciplines, and agencies,” said McKinney Center director Nancy Peter.
“As a result of Don’s work, more teachers receive quality professional development, more nonprofits connect with businesses and corporations, and ultimately more children and youth participate in life-changing STEM experiences.”
Those involved in the center believe that although it is important to start preparing Philadelphia youth for careers in STEM, it is not their main goal.
“All too often, we speak about STEM education as a solution to a national workforce shortage. At the Ed Fund, we believe that STEM education is important beyond its role as a workforce solution,” said Farah Jimenez, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund.
“Students should enjoy access to a robust STEM education so that they can be better-informed consumers of health care, energetic stewards of the environment, adaptive users of technology – in other words, STEM-literate.”
Peter said that STEM education has been receiving more attention and support because of an increasingly apparent need for a more scientifically well-informed population.
“Clearly, one critical need is a more robust and more racially, socioeconomically, and gender-diverse STEM workforce. However, there is an equally dire need for STEM-literate citizens: adults and young people who understand the ingredients in food labels, who can balance their checkbooks, and who can vote responsibly on STEM-related issues,” she said.
The McKinney Center will sustain the Ed Fund’s previously successful programs, such as the STEM Teacher Forums, and will become the backbone of the Philadelphia STEM Ecosystem, which connects representatives from schools and school districts, nonprofits and community groups, higher education institutions, businesses, and government agencies to increase the quality of and access to STEM education.
The center will also establish McKinney Senior Fellows, people involved in STEM education on a national and global level, in hopes of moving the discussion about the STEM workforce and literacy beyond the Philadelphia region.