What I implemented:
At Goethe Elementary, in 2015 I saw a CPS Newsblast in my inbox that listed various STEM PD opportunities. One of the partnerships that interested me in particular was with the Dyson Foundation (think vacuums). I completed the online application and shortly after we were accepted and funded. Throughout the course of the program they provided our school with an engineering design box which gave us the necessary materials to have students engage in the engineering design process. For example we were able to disassemble and (with luck) reassemble vacuums and air purifiers. This process was then applied to solve problems we wished to see fixed within the greater community. It was a great success for our students. We were eager to continue with the program however the application requirements changed and we were no longer eligible.
After seeing how beneficial this was for our school I knew immediately we needed something to replace it. I went through my mental rolodex of networking contacts to see what we could do. I went to an open house at the Lincoln Square BitSpace. At this event I ended up meeting the manager and we began talking about pilot programs. Initially they did not have a school partnership program ready to go but we were able to develop this in tandem to match their resources with our school’s needs. Eventually this led to a well-established and mutually beneficial partnership in which we built a full aquaponics system with multiple tanks containing various fish and plants.
One lesson learned:
After going through this iterative process of finding a partner, having great outcomes, but it only lasting for a few years and then having to start the search all over again I began to realize that networking is a key component of partnerships. I live off partnerships, not grants, and partnerships don’t just come to you. You have to put yourself out there! You can’t do it solely behind a keyboard. You have to go to events, print business cards, make the time. We moved our STEMulate events to Saturday to network with families as connectors. I also attend MSI’s Evening of Opportunities networking event for just this reason.