Skip to main content

Cultivating Connections Across the STEM Learning Landscape

Charting a Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education is referred to as a “north star for the STEM community as it charts a course for collective success.” We know that the North Star, Polaris, is nearly stationary in the night sky and thus has been a reliable marker for travelers without a compass for centuries. In the business world “north star” is a term used to represent a company’s purpose and the core value it delivers to customers. In either case, north star means something that is referenced so that your actions take you where you want to go. It is in this way that Charting a Course for Success is intended to guide the collective action of all of us who play a role in STEM education.

The goals of this national-level STEM strategic plan focus on:

  • STEM literacy: ensuring a public that is engaged, informed, and equipped for technological change and participation in civil society.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion in STEM: ensuring lifelong access to high-quality STEM learning experiences and career pathways, especially for those historically underrepresented and underserved in STEM education pathways and employment.
  • Workforce preparation: ensuring a diverse talent pool to support the economy, make scientific discoveries, and create future technologies in a rapidly changing workplace and world.

Decades ago, when the concept of STEM was first conceived and articulated, the focus was on meeting workforce needs in science, technology, and engineering. Today, the goals are more nuanced—they still focus on the needs of employers, yet also emphasize the importance of STEM for all. Charting a Course for Success argues that a STEM-literate public is equipped to critically analyze information, make informed choices, propose innovative solutions to problems, and handle technological change. A STEM-literate public is “prepared to participate in civil society as jurors, voters, and consumers.” Further the goals emphasize the importance of ensuring that everyone has access and opportunity to pursue STEM and the demonstrated value of diverse teams.

Charting a Course for Success also lays out strategies for achieving these goals, many of which are consistent with the purpose of Connected Science Learning. For example, the document highlights the importance of fostering STEM ecosystems and strategic partnerships, employing blended instructional practices from across the learning landscape, and providing authentic learning experiences that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and incorporate humanities and the arts.  

In this issue you’ll find articles that connect to these goals in a variety of ways, such as helping young people develop their STEM identities, using virtual learning to broaden access to museum collections and forge international classroom connections, engaging in environmental issues through transdisciplinary approaches, and more. I’m inspired by what the STEM education community can do when we work together in new ways.

Beth Murphy, PhD (, is field editor for Connected Science Learning and an independent STEM education consultant with expertise in fostering collaboration between organizations and schools, providing professional learning experiences for educators, and implementing program evaluation that supports practitioners to do their best work. 

citation: Murphy, B. 2021. Cultivating connections across the STEM learning landscapeConnected Science Learning 3 (4).


Executive Office of the President, Office of Science and Technology Policy. December 2018. Charting A Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education. A Report by the Committee on STEM Education of the National Science & Technology Council. Washington, DC.

STEM Informal Education

Asset 2