Leveraging the on-going SYNERGIES project in the Parkrose neighborhood of E. Portland, the Advancing SCILS (STEM, Creativity & Invention Learning through SYNERGIES) project builds a unique community-wide partnership. With support from the Lemelson Foundation, OSU researchers, along with SCILS Community Coordinator, Tricia Harding, University of Oregon doctoral student, Jay Breslow, and visiting scholar, Faik Karatas, Karadeniz Technical University, Trabzon, Turkey, are working to use the SYNERGIES data gathered to date, to significantly increase the STEM, creativity and invention learning of early adolescents under-represented in STEM. By improving the educational capacities of an entire community, this innovative project hopes to improve the likelihood that under-served early adolescents will be able to successfully compete in the rapidly changing world of the 21st Century.  

The Advancing SCILS project is being implemented in two phases.  In the first Phase,  (Year 1), with the assistance of high school-aged youth researchers we are focusing on building a STEM, creativity and invention educational “tool kit” which we will use with our community partners to co-develop a comprehensive education plan.  

Our community partners include as many significant formal and informal STEM, invention and creativity organizations, institutions and individuals working in Parkrose and the surrounding Portland area as possible.  To date, our partners include: Oregon MESA, Metropolitan Family Service, Parkrose School District, City Christian School, Central Catholic School, SUN (Schools Uniting Neighborhoods) Schools, Multnomah County Libraries, Mt. Hood Community College (Gresham & Maywood Campus), Metro, Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI), Oregon Zoo, 4-H, after-school programs, and a wide array of government, business, non-profit and faith-based leaders. Over the course of the project all will be engaged in developing and testing a coordinated approach to facilitating STEM, creativity and invention education for middle-school-aged youth living in Parkrose. 

Some specific strategies and tools we will be developing to improve STEM, creativity and invention learning in Parkrose are:

  1. An Advancing STEM, Creativity and Invention Learning through SYNERGIES  (SCILS) Matrix;
  2. An Advancing SCILS community asset map that connects youth interests and a wide range of community resources, including individuals, programs and businesses. 

Phase 2 (Years 2 and 3) includes two iterative stages of educational development; each stage will involve planning and implementing educational efforts, assessment and revision.

By the end of SYNERGIES and Advancing SCILS ideally we will have created both a sustainable program in Parkrose that measurably improves the quality of youths’ STEM, creativity and invention learning and developed a set of “tools” and strategies for replicating these two efforts in other communities in Oregon and beyond.