New York's World Maker Faire helped spur a fantastic discussion on innovation in STEM education, highlighting the importance of partnerships that include educational institutions, communities, and private entities to ensure the broadest impact possible. I'm delighted to share that Cognizant's Making the Future has been in touch with Teach2Learn in Boston and I'm hopeful that a beneficial partnership can be formed.

Following Maker Faire, I had a chance to chat with Tania Tiburcio, Director of External Affairs at the New York Hall of Science (NYSCI—also @nysci) to learn a bit more about NYSCI Neighbors, a program they piloted earlier this summer to increase local interest and participation in science and counter learning loss that can occur when kids are home from school.

Tiburcio, a Corona native herself, visited ten local schools and spoke during PTA meetings to help foster interest. At a time when schools and parents are feeling the effects of tightened budgets, NYSCI Neighbors presented a low-cost fun and educational opportunity that doesn't leave anyone out. Tiburcio reports that 116 families participated in the pilot, which offered access to NYSCI and 300 other museums, the NYSCI science playground, and bilingual live science demos for a $50.00 membership.

Other local businesses and organizations have gotten involved as well: a Junior Scientist Award is given to outstanding participants in the program, and prizes have been sponsored by the Ice King of Corona and the Queens Zoo. This demonstrates a great investment in the residents of the community and it's fantastic to learn about such broad support for science.

Tiburcio indicates that NYSCI is definitely interested in continuing the program and hopes that they will be able to forge a deeper connection with the educational programs in local schools to help support and reinforce what children are learning in a practical, hands-on way. She also hopes that NYSCI can offer professional development to teachers as another means of supplementing educational efforts.

NYSCI Neighbors provides an excellent framework for understanding how different elements of a community can work together to enhance science learning and encourage participatory science experiences for kids who might not otherwise have these sorts of opportunities. I'm particularly excited by the ways the whole family is encouraged to participate, which sends a very important message about the importance of learning and STEM activities to possible future researchers. Hopefully NYSCI will continue to be a success, and can be expanded to additional communities.