Philadelphia STEM Education for Sustainability — Linking Schools and Communities (EFS Philly) is an initiative which aims to expand student access and engagement in “Green STEM” through the cultivation of teacher and student leaders, as well as authentic collaboration with community members and organizations. Funded by a 2021 PASmart Advancing Grant, the initiative seeks to link school-based learning to civic action, active community engagement, and introduce young people to Green STEM career pathways. We believe the best way to accomplish these goals is to make STEM learning directly relevant to students’ everyday lives and material concerns. This is especially true as the burgeoning climate crisis stands to altogether unsettle the ways humans have lived and worked for centuries.

Who We Are

Starting in 2021, eleven schools, multiple community organizations, forty teachers, hundreds of students and community members, embarked on a year-long action research and project design process toward building a more sustainable, resilient, and just Philadelphia. Teams of 3-4 teachers from eleven high schools work with a wider group of students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members to achieve the project’s goals. Each school is supported by an undergraduate intern. Throughout our process, schools collaborate with local community organizations to carry out mutually beneficial projects.

What We’re Doing

Our initiative aims to use various participatory methodologies to ground our work in the needs of communities throughout Philadelphia. We will partner with local organizations working to build resilience in the face of cascading inequalities and the emerging crisis of climate change.

  • Place-Based Education for Sustainability: school teams create projects that respond to real challenges in their community in areas of sustainability and social, environmental, and climate justice

  • Youth Participatory Action Research: students engage with each other and people from their communities to ground research in lived realities, in recognition of diverse constructions of knowledge, and recognizing people as the experts of their own experience.

  • Community Engagement: teams will partner with PHENND Sustainability to cultivate the resources and stakeholders in their community to work toward solutions

  • Green STEM Careers: teams will explore Green STEM career awareness with at least two students from each school participating in 6-week paid Green STEM internships in Summer 2022