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Harrisburg -- As a part of its continued effort to support STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) access and initiatives across the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has partnered with NextGenScience to launch the Pennsylvania Science Education Leaders (PennSEL) Network, a group of leadership teams representing 19 regions with the shared goal of improving science learning for all of the Commonwealth's students.

"The pandemic has helped intensify STEM’s critical value and important role in creating solutions to some of the world's biggest challenges,” said Acting Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Education Dr. Sherri Smith. “We are committed to building sustainable networks of educators who will engage in and support the development of STEM literacy for every student, equipping them with the tools needed to solve problems through STEM in their communities, across the commonwealth, and around the world."

The PennSEL Network is the latest piece of a larger strategy to strengthen STEM education by investing in STEM learning experiences for educators and students. In September of 2019, the State Board of Education assigned the Department of Education with the task of updating Pennsylvania's science, technology, environment, ecology, and engineering standards for the first time in about 20 years. The PennSEL Network will help support educators during these updates.

The network will bring together Intermediate Unit-based teams of over 120 science leaders to create a common strategy for science teaching and learning. Through the network, educators and leaders will have opportunities to share ideas and problem solve across regions. Regional demonstration sites will be used to generate tools, resources, and processes that can be shared with educators to spotlight innovations that are working equitably to serve students.

“When educators from the school, district, regional, and state level work together toward a common vision for science education, it makes a huge difference in creating meaningful and inclusive science experiences for students,” said Vanessa Wolbrink, associate director of NextGenScience. “Given events of the past year, it’s more important than ever that all students are empowered to think of science as something that helps them address issues that affect their lives and communities." Wolbrink led the Tennessee District Science Network and will oversee the work of the PennSEL Network.

Partners and support for the PennSEL Network include Arconic Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Grable Foundation.

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