The Montshire Museum of Science is an interactive science center in Norwich, Vermont, with more than 150 hands-on exhibits relating to the natural and physical sciences, ecology, and technology. Outdoors, visitors can explore nature trails and exhibits on wind, water, and sound in David Goudy Science Park. Visiting exhibitions, educational programs, and special events are offered throughout the year.
Montshire Museum of Science and The Family Place Awarded Grant to Launch STEM Learning Initiative to Support Local Families
The Montshire Museum of Science and The Family Place have been awarded a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to launch a new education initiative, STEM Learning Together: Strengthening a System of Support for Young Families. Through this three-year program, both partner organizations will support the education and well-being of two generations within families (parents and their young children) through science programs that help meet participants’ education goals, and provide meaningful engagement in STEM, worksite job training, and empowering experiences that will prepare participants for parenthood and the workplace.
STEM Learning Together helps to advance the educational goals of both organizations, and expands The Family Place’s existing program, Families Learning Together, which is designed to support young parents, typically ages 15–25, raising young children in adverse situations. Participants generally reside in Windsor County, Vermont, and Grafton County, New Hampshire.
The STEM Learning Together program was conceptualized and tested over the past year in a pilot collaboration between the Montshire and The Family Place. In this partnership, a Montshire Science Educator joined The Family Place support team to provide science and math instruction toward participants’ learning goals. The team also includes certified educators, a clinical mental health counselor, case managers, a registered nurse, home visitors, and certified child care providers.
The $170,000 IMLS grant will be used to strengthen and expand the existing system of support, and to reinforce and facilitate participants’ engagement in STEM learning. Research has shown that connecting STEM engagement experiences to other opportunities that intentionally encourage youth participation can increase the impact of STEM programming.
The STEM Learning Together partnership will include:
- Science & Math Instruction: The Montshire will continue to provide math and science instruction to directly support participants’ high school achievement and eventual graduation.
- Family Programming: Leveraging the museum’s strength as expert designers and facilitators of science learning for family audiences, the Montshire and The Family Place will develop and facilitate a monthly STEM learning program designed for families who receive services from The Family Place.
- Workplace Readiness: The Montshire will become an official work-site, where participants will receive high-quality training and experience designed to develop job skills and workplace readiness. Working with expert Science Educators, participants will receive one-on-one mentoring to support skill development in science communication and customer service.
- Cross-Organizational Professional Development: Throughout the project, staff from the Montshire and The Family Place will participate in quarterly professional development workshops to build knowledge, skill, and shared understanding about key issues and topics facing local children, youth, and families experiencing adverse situations. This will allow both organizations to better serve program participants, and to better meet the evolving needs of the community overall.
As the leading provider of informal science learning in the bi-state region of Vermont and New Hampshire, the Montshire seeks to enrich the lives of the whole family through its mission to awaken and encourage a lifelong interest in science through exhibits and programming dedicated to hands-on discovery and education for people of all ages.
“I am thrilled that we have an opportunity to deepen our partnership with The Family Place and increase our impact in the community,” said Jennifer Rickards, Acting Executive Director of the Montshire. “By engaging these young families in science, we can spark a lifelong interest in learning that will support their development both personally and professionally.”
The Family Place is one of fifteen Parent Child Centers (PCCs) in Vermont that work to provide prevention and early intervention services and support to families with young children in the immediate region. These services support positive relationships, strengthen core life skills, and promote enduring healthy growth, behavior, and economic stability.
“I’m excited to move forward with this project, which will provide families with learning resources and opportunities for growth,” said Nancy Bloomfield, Executive Director of The Family Place. “The IMLS grant, along with the generous support of our community, has made this collaboration possible. And we’re so grateful for it!”
Together, through their efforts in the STEM Learning Together program, both partner organizations are fulfilling their missions, while impacting the community in a significant and lasting way. STEM Learning Together will run from September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2024.