STEM Guides: Building Coherent Infrastructure in Rural Communities

The STEM Guides project creates and studies an innovative model of capacity-building for out-of-school STEM learning in rural areas. “STEM Guides” are community members who both cultivate the local landscape of out-of-school STEM and help youth and families navigate it. Small teams of STEM Guides are trained to identify and foster STEM assets in their regions and to connect interested youth with these resources in creative ways.


What Do STEM Guides Do

Sometimes the Guides only need to point students or parents in the direction of an interesting opportunity in order to help them make a connection. Other times they assist a student or parent in resolving issues that stand between them and the opportunity (e.g. transportation, cost, bureaucracy). If necessary, a STEM Guide can also step in and lead experiences for students, by launching an existing, proven OST STEM program such as a Teen Science Café club or a Junior Solar Sprint team.

STEM Guides at MMSAWhenever guides lead programs, however, they also actively engage and involve local partners (e.g. by utilizing space at the library, local STEM professionals, community-based transportation providers and communication networks, local businesses, volunteers) in order to foster the sustainability of their efforts.

Importantly, MMSA offers resources, access to networks, and professional development (including ACRES Coaching) to all of the Guides. The project also works closely with MMSA’s Reach Center project, which connects youth, ages 10–18, with STEM opportunities outside of school. These and other investments help sustain the progress each STEM Hub makes over its 2–3 year span.


Where We Work

Since 2013, the project has been implementing and studying STEM Guides, how they operate, and the results of their efforts, in five, low-income, rural regions in Maine, which we call “STEM hubs.”

The Downeast Hub is also recognized and supported as the most rural of the 56 STEM Learning Ecosystems that participate in this national initiative of the STEM Funders Network.


See Publications from this Project


Project Partners

4HMSAD 17 teen science cafe network

axiom education and training center
EDC Development Center

Project Funder


This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, grant #DRL-1322827.  Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in these materials are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.



Project Staff

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