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 Nonprofits Unite to Boost STEM Opportunities

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the San Diego Science Alliance (SDSA) are coming together to create learning opportunities and an expanded hub for science, technology, engineering, and math organizations and in San Diego County.

Starting next month, the Fleet Science Center will assume the Science Alliance’s efforts to re-engineer the education/workforce pipeline, expand partnerships, and serve as a countywide resource for educational, nonprofit, and business communities.

The Fleet will also operate two of SDSA’s most respected programs: Better Education for Women in Science and Engineering (BE WiSE) and the High Tech Fair, which is presented each year in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education.

“Our role is to be the central link between science and our communities, our schools, and scientific organizations,” said Dr. Steve Snyder, the Fleet’s chief executive officer. “San Diego is a hub for technology and innovation, and the Fleet’s goal is to connect people of all ages to the possibilities and power of science to create a better future for our community.”

The Fleet currently provides numerous science, technology, engineering, and math—also known as STEM—educational programs at the science center, at schools and in the community, as well as teacher professional development opportunities. The addition of BE WiSE, which shares a mission similar to the Fleet’s SciTech after-school program, and the High Tech Fair to the Fleet’s roster of offerings will enhance the Fleet’s ability to positively impact science education and support both teachers and students.

“I am confident that the Fleet board of directors and Steve Snyder and his team have the resources, enthusiasm and experience to continue to serve our stakeholders, carry on the SDSA legacy, and thrive as the new go-to STEM resource for San Diego alliances,” stated Ellen Peneski, SDSA executive director.

In 2015, the Fleet launched 52 Weeks of Science, which leverages the efforts of more than 35 STEM education organizations to provide free weekly science events for a full year in the Barrio Logan and Logan Heights neighborhoods. All of the organizations were active in the same neighborhoods with the same goal of broadening and expanding STEM learning—but they were all working separately. Through 52 Weeks of Science, the Fleet has organized a collaborative, impactful network that is supported by a community awareness campaign. Existing programs like SciTech and 52 Weeks of Science, along with a commitment to community and dedication to education, made the joining of the two organizations a natural fit.

For two decades, SDSA advanced STEM in San Diego County with a goal of enhancing science literacy in kindergarten through 12th grade education. A nonprofit consortium of leaders from more than 300 STEM organizations in San Diego County, the alliance worked together to provide science resources to educators; create, implement, and support science education programs for local students and teachers; and foster public/private partnerships among the region’s diverse business, education, nonprofit, and scientific research communities. In order to continue to positively impact science teaching and learning in the most efficient way possible, SDSA board of directors voted to render the organization’s mission to the Fleet and cease all operations.

Since October, SDSA had been actively seeking a like-minded organization that had the experience and resources to take over their mission to enhance science literacy in K–12 education and in the San Diego community. The Fleet was selected due to its 43 year history of inspiring passion for science learning in people of all ages throughout San Diego County. In recent years, the Fleet further expanded its role as a convener and connector for San Diego organizations to increase opportunities for science learning throughout the county.

In fiscal year 2015, the Fleet reached more than 440,000 children and adults through exhibitions, films, and events at the science center, as well as school and community programs throughout San Diego County. Annually, SDSA has reached 30,000 K–12 students; 3,500 teachers; and 300 industry, research, and university partners.

Photo: Students learn about green-screen technology with San Diego County Office of Education's iTV crew at the High Tech Fair.