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The Homewood Science Center is now part of STEM Learning Ecosystems, a national and international network working to change how students learn, educators teach and how businesses develop a workforce with 21st century skills.
“It’s really very rewarding to see that we’ve been accepted on a national level and how much it has done for this project. It’s put us on the map regionally and now nationally,” said Edie Dobrez, executive director of the Homewood Science Center.
Science educators are focusing on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in their classrooms.  Some have added art to the mix for a STEAM program. 
Dobrez said the Ecosystems membership offers shared expertise and other benefits. HSC is “not operating in isolation,” and the HSC affiliation is “bringing people together to work together,” she added. “It’s very powerful. And we’re just getting started.”
The membership also offers HSC resources, free webinars and several staff will be attending an Ecosystems conference in California in October. Ecosystems also helped create a survey so HSC staff can better determine “what people need and where they’re at” in STEM education and programs. 
“We’re circulating (the survey) to any stakeholder that cares about science, technology, engineering, art and math programming, wherever it takes place, whether that’s in a traditional school setting or as part of a business operations” such as Homewood Disposal’s educational outreach, Dobrez explained.
“It’s creating this platform for us to enrich our community. It’s no secret that there’s a lot of jobs in STEAM so there’s an economic component to it. There’s also a human component to it, letting people reach their human potential and finding their passions.”
The first collaboration for HSC was to draw upon the expertise of Amy Pratt, assistant dean for Community Education Partnership at Northwestern University, who was a guest speaker for HSC’s Sept. 11 STEAM Network.  Pratt is a leader in the STEM Learning Ecosystems community and shared the goals of the movement and how the South Suburbs will benefit from HSC’s participation.
More than 75 educators, parents, business representatives and others came together for the STEAM Network meeting to discuss the latest approaches to teaching STEAM and establish collaborative relationships.
HSC is one of three sites in Illinois that are now part of STEM Learning Ecosystems. The others are Chicago STEM Pathways Cooperative and EvanSTEM.
HSC was accepted through a lengthy application process. Dobrez believes the “depth and breath of connections the science center has made in a very short time” was one of the contributing factors.

The Village of Homewood founded the Homewood Science Center three years ago. It has become a regional center offering programs for people of all ages from its PopUp Science short courses to its connection to science educators and its community programs, including the 2017 solar eclipse viewing and party and the Walk Walton event at the Izaak Walton Nature Preserve.

The Homewood Science Center is at 18022 Dixie Highway. More information is at homewoodsciencecenter.org.

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