Smithsonian Forms ‘Strategic Alliance’ With Carnegie Learning to Build...


Smithsonian Forms ‘Strategic Alliance’ With Carnegie Learning to Build New STEM Products

By Tony Wan     Jan 19, 2018

Smithsonian Forms ‘Strategic Alliance’ With Carnegie Learning to Build New STEM Products

Carnegie Learning, a Pittsburgh-based provider of math curriculum and training resources, is teaming up with the Smithsonian Institution on a “strategic alliance” to “develop new product solutions to help address the growing need for improved and expanded STEM education,” wrote Barry Malkin, Carnegie’s CEO, in an email.

Neither party divulged specifics about what’s in the works, or the financial terms of the partnership. Carnegie Learning will work closely with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), which began in 1985 as a joint effort by the Smithsonian Institution and the National Academy of Sciences to improve K-12 science education.

One of the science education center’s’s staple offerings is STC, a “object-focused, inquiry-centered science curriculum for K-12 classrooms,” as described by the center’s director, Carol O’Donnell. Short for “Science and Technology Concepts,” this curriculum has been used in more 1,450 districts. The center sells these textbooks and accompanying science kits through a partnership with the Carolina Biological Supply Company.

In addition, SSEC also runs professional-development programs to help educators implement science education reform, and the trainings have reached more than 970 U.S. school districts.

More recently, the SSEC has shifted its focus to growing its collection of online science resources. Supported by grants from funders including the U.S. Department of Education, the group has worked with third-party companies to create instructional games, videos and animated shorts.

The new partnership with Carnegie aligns with the Smithsonian center’s growing digital ambitions, says O’Donnell, who aims to pair her group’s expertise in science and engineering education with Carnegie’s experience in building online, adaptive math programs. The goal, she says, is to “bring our collective expertise to create blended, interdisciplinary, and multimodal learning environments.”

The deal between Carnegie and Smithsonian marries two household names with an established history of developing and disseminating research-backed educational materials. The Smithsonian, best known for its world-class museums, also digitizes many of its holdings and collections for teachers and students to access.

Carnegie Learning traces its roots back to the 1980’s, when researchers at Carnegie Mellon University developed an “intelligent” math tutoring system. (Carnegie Learning spun out as an independent company in 1998, and its ownership has changed hands several times between private equity groups and other investors.) Today, Carnegie offers print and digital math materials and professional-development services aimed at supporting teachers and students in grades 6-12 and in higher education.

Last September, Carnegie expanded its offerings by acquiring Globaloria, a developer of K-12 computer-science curriculum.

Although STEM has become a priority for policymakers and philanthropists, teaching it well requires a “truly integrated approach” that effectively blends the four subjects that make up the acronym (science, technology, engineering and math), O’Donnell believes. Rather than teaching them as disparate disciplines, she says, the challenge—and opportunity—is to weave them together into a coherent curriculum.

As the two parties collaborate to create and sell new offerings, the financial arrangements will be overseen by Smithsonian Enterprises, the division that oversees the Smithsonian’s retail and commercial efforts.

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