Seeds to STEM

Preschool students explore the children’s garden planted inside a repurposed bathtub at the Sloan St Community Garden 

In 2021, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, in partnership with Drexel School of Education and GrowingGreat in Los Angeles, received a $1.35 million Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) grant from the Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a program called Seeds to STEM.

Seeds to STEM is an innovative, research-based, bilingual program in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles that works with educators or providers, families and children ages 3–5 to promote early science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, literacy and nutrition to help prepare children for kindergarten.

Over the five years of the SEPA-funded Seeds to STEM grant, the Academy, in partnership with Drexel and GrowingGreat, will deliver the following:

  1. An inquiry-based curriculum about early childhood nutrition and kindergarten readiness that integrates STEM, literacy and numeracy learning through experimental activities growing food inside classrooms, urban gardens and family homes.
  2. Professional development and in-class coaching for accredited and under-accredited pre-K educators, including home-based care providers.
  3. Programs that empower families to learn together, understand kindergarten readiness and become more connected to health and nutrition resources in their communities.

Over 50% of the families served by the program in Philadelphia live in the federally designated Promise Zone of West Philadelphia, a 2-square-mile area of 36,000 people living in persistent poverty. Seeds to STEM will develop and evaluate curriculum, professional development and family activities aimed at strengthening current early-childhood training programs and curriculums, which often fall short on STEM.

Inquiry-based STEM education is not often presented in pre-K classrooms, and until recently, its power to increase literacy skills among very young children had not been widely recognized. The national distribution of an integrated inquiry-based curriculum for children 3–5, coupled with professional development workshops and sustained programs to engage families in children’s learning, represents forward motion in the field of early-childhood education.

Seeds to STEM