Mission and Principles
Reach Center Mission
The Reach Center identifies, attracts, engages, and challenges Maine students in grades 5-12 who demonstrate both facility and uncommon enthusiasm for mathematics and science. We increase student opportunities to learn new concepts in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) every day—both in school and outside of it. We leverage school and community resources to provide students with these opportunities and to prepare them for professional and personal futures that involve STEM. We reach out to underserved groups, and create a broader and deeper pool of students who show promise in STEM.
The following six principles outline the audience for Reach Center initiatives and the common elements or strategies the Center will follow in its activities. Our emphasis is on two of the three generally agreed-upon goals for STEM education: 1) increasing the number of scientific researchers and engineers and 2) increasing the number of STEM-capable individuals. The third goal – increased STEM literacy across the general populace – is not our primary focus, although we expect our work will contribute to greater STEM literacy.
- Informal, Out-of-School Focus
We have based our decision to emphasize informal, out-of-school activities on research on informal learning; on our suspicion that students with potential and interest in STEM careers, but disengagement from in-school STEM studies are often engaged in STEM activities outside school; and on our decision to leave change or reform in STEM-related school programs to others. We believe that the out-of-school territory is open to our initiatives and that successful programs, like STEM intensives, mentoring, internships, and competitions offer the Reach Center the best opportunity to achieve its mission.
- “Promising” Students
A key audience for the Reach Center is Maine students who are already high achievers in STEM as indicated by self-nominations, test scores, grades, and/or involvement in science competitions and camps. Equally important, we serve all students who could become deeply engaged in STEM subjects when given appropriate opportunities and encouragement. We use the term “promising” to include both groups.
- Students from all Backgrounds
We focus on promising mathematics and science students, broadly defined, and work to draw into our activities students from all backgrounds. Our talent scouting efforts will engage already high achieving students while also attracting other students with the interest, persistence, and potential to be highly productive in STEM fields including some who may not currently be performing well in school. We expect that the types of materials we share and the initiatives we set up will mainly attract self-selected students who seek challenging, in-depth STEM experiences. Our activities are available to any interested student, with cohorts limited to geographic areas (to permit in-person activities) and limited in size only as needed.
- In Practice: Our Three “Rs”
Reach Center programs will be characterized by rigor, relevance, and relationships. These practices combine to give our initiatives high levels of challenge, engagement, and impact for students and their teachers, mentors, and other leaders.
- Rigor: Reach Center students will be immersed in big ideas, challenging content, and creative intellectual space that leads them in many directions without the constraint of established curricular programs. They will be encouraged to take as many side trips as they’d like in order to follow the nuances of their ideas. Our activities and those we support will be informed by, but not constrained by efforts such as the Common Core State Standards Initiative in Mathematics and English Language Arts and the Next Generation Science Standards. We view these standards as foundations and not ceilings or targets. Our activities should blend these standards and significantly exceed their reach.
- Relevance: Throughout their work, students will have first-hand opportunities and mentor or internship support to apply what they are learning to real world problems. Students will get multiple, realistic pictures of what it means to be directly involved in a STEM field and will understand how STEM and other activities fit together and contribute to society. Reach students will also be encouraged to pursue the beauty of math and science for its own sake, if that is their interest; that is, we consider following the students’ own interests a key and relevant driver.
- Relationships: Much work in STEM happens in diverse communities of practice where individuals must collaborate effectively with others from other disciplines, since STEM work increasingly transcends traditional disciplines. Learning to build strong, successful relationships with mentors, as well as peers, will be featured in all Reach Center initiatives.
- Engagement and Achievement Targets
In assessing our effectiveness, we will measure both persistent engagement in STEM studies and achievement on STEM subject matter testing.
- Students as Leaders
We will identify and engage STEM talent in order both to enrich individual students’ lives and to generate a stronger STEM workforce in Maine. Although both are important, engaging promising students and encouraging STEM learning are essential and will, if done well, produce a growing STEM workforce. Our approaches recognize the student as the primary worker/learner in our activities and adults (including teachers, parents, and mentors) as playing supportive, facilitating, evaluative, and coordinating roles. Student choice is a key element of all Reach Center activities.