Our goal: Build the next generation of confident, creative problem-solvers by expanding access to engaging and challenging STEM learning experiences.

Both in- and out-of-school settings provide unique opportunities for sparking and maintaining students’ interest in STEM. But, elementary and middle school students only spend, on average, 18 and 27 minutes per day in the classroom focused on science, and even fewer students have access to afterschool or summer learning programs that provide hands-on STEM learning opportunities.

Our Inspired Minds portfolio supports direct impact and ecosystem organizations that expand access to engaging and challenging STEM experiences, with the goal of inspiring students through joyful and rigorous learning. These experiences, which can occur both in- and out-of-school, help to improve students’ science and math achievement, increase social-emotional skills, and foster positive, confident STEM attitudes that last into adulthood.

Our Learnings

Students’ math skills have been greatly impacted by the pandemic, and similar losses are expected for science. This has led to an increased recognition for the importance of STEM learning.

In-school STEM learning, particularly in science, is not supporting student learning to its full potential.

Out-of-school programs can improve student academic outcomes and teacher skills.

Importantly, out-of-school programs also support students’ social-emotional development.

Adults are crucial for helping children build early math skills—a strong predictor of later academic success—but math confidence remains a challenge.

Parent and district demand is high for out-of-school STEM programs in particular, but access is limited.

There’s a nationwide shortage of afterschool and summer workers, leading to reduced access for students.

Grantee Spotlight

Learn more about some of the work funded by the Inspired Minds portfolio.

Afterschool Alliance

Advocating for increased access to high-quality afterschool opportunities for students nationwide.

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Promoting student engagement in STEM through hands-on engineering experiences.

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Bringing engineering home, even for the youngest learners.

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Engaging young people in hands-on robotics programs to encourage STEM attitudes and interests.

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Two boys work on robot

Imagine Science

Building a foundation for STEM proficiency through high school and beyond.

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Learn Fresh

Strengthening students' STEM skills through interactive games and a partnership with the NBA.

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National Inventors Hall of Fame

Using a suite of education programs to nurture students' interest in STEM and innovation.

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Improving the science fair experience for millions of students a year.

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WNET "Cyberchase"

Using children’s programming to build positive math attitudes and confidence.

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Our Approach

Increase Out-of-School STEM Opportunities

Increase the quality and supply of joyful and rigorous out-of-school STEM experiences that are most likely to spark interest in elementary and middle students—a critical age when initial STEM interest is most likely to form.

Our Approach

Enhance In-School STEM Instruction

Improve in-school STEM learning by scaling interventions, such as field trips and teacher professional development, that connect students to authentic, relevant STEM learning experiences.

Our Approach

Expand the Pool of Skilled Adults Who Can Connect Kids to STEM

Expand the number of adults with the skills to engage children in STEM education through increased caregiver support and professional development for out-of-school-time workers.

Our Approach

Enhance Evidence for Out-of-School Environments

Encourage evidence-building in the out-of-school-time space to better capture programmatic impact and the importance of this often-underappreciated setting.

High school students doing an experiment at a science lab. Image provided by Students2Science.
Children experiment with science outside of school. Image provided by STEM Funders Network.
Young girl drawing with chalk on the playground. Image provided by DonorsChoose.org.

Our Questions

What impact do STEM-focused programs have on student outcomes, and how does this vary by intervention dosage?

What innovative models for recruiting and training staff exist in out-of-school time STEM, and to what extent do these models support educator retention, program quality, and student engagement?

What impact do highly engaging, competition- or game-based interventions have on math achievement and STEM attitudes?

Other Portfolios