Author Archives: Paul Reimer

Ecosystems Have Histories – Part 2

In my previous post, I shared research scientist Bronwyn Bevan’s piece on ecological perspectives and learning ecosystems in STEM education. Bevan provides four considerations that can help those involved in learning ecosystems confront existing norms and rethink dominant practices. These considerations seek to disrupt traditional methods and can help us think more critically about the ways we might expand learning opportunities across environments and groups.

1. We need to support a robust, diverse, and redundant STEM learning ecosystem.

Bevan expands on this first consideration by describing the need for multiple learning opportunities across contexts and ages. Regarding redundancy, she points to the fact that learning is not linear, and that many times people will return to particular interests after a brief departure. Understanding the nature of these opportunities involves a closer look at what exists, where it exists, and for whom it exists.

2. We need to make connections, and broker connections, within the STEM learning ecosystem.

Making connections, developing partnerships, and accessing social and cultural resources strengthen the ecosystem approach. Rather than seeing opportunities as existing in isolation, relationships can be brokered in ways that further participation. For example, Bevan suggests a connection between museums, after-school programs, and schools.

3. We need to design experiences in our organizations that recognize and build on the prior experiences, interests, and cultural repertoires of our audiences.

Bevan is clear that many of our practices and opportunities have been designed for dominant communities, and changing that reality takes effort. She advocates for a culturally responsive approach in which the resources that participants bring “are the very means (not the obstacles) for productive participation.”

4. Equity-oriented programmes need to position science, not as an end unto itself but rather as a means towards meaningful futures.

This consideration draws on humanizing pedagogies and critical consciousness to position STEM education as a socially-just endeavor. When participants recognize that learning opportunities can better position them to challenge injustices in their communities or address health and safety issues, they are more likely to experience purposeful and meaningful participation.

As we look critically at the histories of learning ecosystems, we will be better prepared to confront patterns of inequity and embrace a more connected, humanizing future.

Ecosystems Have Histories

We recently had a visit from Emily Dilger, who is the lead of the Bay Area STEM Ecosystem project. Learning ecosystems are a way of thinking about the various experiences, environments, learners, and tools that exist across settings and contexts. As we gathered on several occasions to have conversations about the power of partnerships and… Continue Reading

Teachers as Learners, Learners as Teachers

In my previous post, I wrote about the ways teachers might engage with children during play. In particular, I highlighted Brent Davis’ explanation: “The teacher becomes a vital part of the action. Immersed in the play, the teacher too is a learner.” This post continues these ideas, with several specific references to readings that take… Continue Reading

Participating in Play

One of our primary ways of working with preschool teachers and children has been to consider together the ways children learn through play. “Play” itself is not an easy concept to define – and perhaps attempts to define it limit its potential. What is considered play for one may not be considered play for another.… Continue Reading

Turning to Conversation

“I believe we can change the world if we start listening to one another again…Simple, truthful conversation where we each have a chance to speak, we each feel heard, and we each listen well.” -Margaret Wheatley Teaching requires reflective conversation–before, during, and after. In this short blog post, I’d like to share a few quotes… Continue Reading

In Their Voices (Part 1)

In his pivotal work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire described the importance of the human voice in dialogue: Human existence cannot be silent, nor can it be nourished by false words, but only by true words, with which men and women transform the world. To exist, humanly, is to name the world, to change… Continue Reading


Last September, I wrote a blog entry about the importance of partnership in our work with teachers. I described how we understand that each teacher, teacher aide, director, and researcher brings a set of understandings and experiences to this work and that these can contribute to a rich, fruitful interaction. If you read the blog… Continue Reading

Play is Risk-Tolerant

I recently read the following claim in a piece from the creative folks at KQED Mindshift: “Up to 70 percent of the tasks in most jobs are on track to be automated, leaving only the most creative, empathetic, technically fluent, collaborative work for humans. Students need to find motivation and meaning, and take a playful… Continue Reading

Learning is Moving in New Ways

I recently attended the Psychology of Mathematics Education conference in Indianapolis. While at the conference, I participated in several sessions with a workgroup that is interested in exploring how the ways we move our bodies influence our cognition. This concept of embodied cognition theorizes how learning to move in new ways can form the basis… Continue Reading


Our early math team is excited to be engaging with preschool teachers in thinking together about mathematics teaching and learning in preschool classrooms. One of the ways we have structured our work together is through the lens of partnership. Think for a moment about what it means to work as a partner. What comes to… Continue Reading