STEM in My Neighborhood

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Developed with generous support and leadership from NeoSTEM partners, including the Cleveland Foundation, Nordson Corporation and the Cleveland Metropolitan Schools.


Students learn best when they are actually doing things — not just reading or listening to someone talk.

Students engage the most when they can solve problems and find solutions.

Students relate to the real world.

The future of our community is dependent upon the willingness and ability of today’s students to lead tomorrow. 

Guided by these simple ideas, the NeoSTEM Ecosystem is building, curating and sharing a series of resources intended to create meaningful connections between classroom lessons and real-world STEM opportunities in our community.

These resources will create real-world learning opportunities for students and be aligned and keyword tagged to Ohio science standards, categorized by grade levels and compiled in a format that will allow educators easy access. 

The initial planning work launched in early June and will continue throughout the summer with weekly work group meetings. 

Guided by Cleveland Metropolitan School District leaders with support from NeoSTEM, stakeholders from business and industry, out-of-school time organizations and others are designing ways to better connect educators’ classroom instruction with real-world career opportunities.

Virtual meetings are planned for noon on Mondays throughout July and the first week of August of 2021. To register and join, please visit (Feel free to join even if you haven’t attended a prior meeting.)

The weekly meetings have produced this lengthy list of area companies and organizations rich with STEM professions and experiences.  Outreach to these businesses and organizations includes two key steps:

  • Data collection. The Real World of STEM committee members are reaching out to these organizations, asking them for their support for this initiative. Initial data is being collected in this Google form.
  • Meetings to Discuss Opportunity. A NeoSTEM or CMSD staffer or The Real World of STEM committee member is reaching out to all who have expressed interest in offering STEM-related experiences. Key information to be discussed includes verifying all information offered on the Google form, discussing and developing the experience or opportunity the organization can offer and creating a written description of it and aligning that experience to content standards and targeting it for appropriate content and subject areas.  

While the Real World of STEM is intended to be a living document with ongoing updates and additions, one preliminary version will be available by the end of August and customized specifically for educators with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, CMSD.

CMSD is the pilot site for this initiative and NeoSTEM will make The Real World of STEM available to any interested district, school, educator or out-of-school time provider. 

The Real World of STEM will connect community members, industry professionals, parents and organizations with educators who want to create real-world STEM opportunities with their students. 

For instance, a physical science educator who is covering the topic of chemistry  can enter that term into a search and find which area employers are willing to come into classrooms to lead interactive classroom workshops of how the principles of chemical reactions are foundational to what they do or produce. Or, the search may also turn up an organization that is willing to donate materials that would enable the students to conduct their own experiments with chemical reactions.

Timeline of Work

The information below reflects the timeline associated with the first launch phase of this work. Outreach will continue throughout the 2021-2022 school year and beyond with new opportunities added as they become known.

Timeline of Real World Project

Why Do We Need The Real World of STEM?

Classroom teachers, parents and others in Northeast Ohio and across the country report that a sizable percentage of students are disengaged from school. Students frequently say that school is not relevant to their lives or their thoughts and plans for work or careers.

Research shows that involving community and building connections to real-world learning experiences can dramatically increase student engagement. Teenagers’ brains, in fact, are wired to learn from experience.

In this narrated animation, Columbia University Professor Daphna Shohamy explains her research showing the part of the teenage brain that is wired to learn from the experiences of everyday life:

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Ohio’s Career Connections Framework spells out the various phases of career planning

Career Awareness 

Grades K – 5

Students become familiar with careers through learning that connects classroom instruction to future work. Career awareness strategies show students various types of careers and stimulate interest in future work. – Workplace visits with career interviews

– Classroom career speakers

– Introduction to Ohio career fields and pathways

Career Exploration 

Grades 6 – 8

Students explore their career interests through embedded activities. Career exploration strategies are opportunities for students to discover work environments and understand the various aspects of the workplace. Strategies include tools and instruments that help students understand and appreciate their strengths and interests. Students start plans for their future.  – Advanced academic and technical education

– Workplace visits with career interviews

– Career mentorships

– Career research

– Service learning




Grades 9 – 12

Students continue career exploration while focusing on career planning. Activities provide advanced experiences that offer hands-on opportunities in a workplace. Career planning strategies focus on making clear links between career options and educational decisions. Students develop the skills to revisit previous exploration and planning strategies as they face career changes throughout life. – Advanced academic and technical education

– Career-tech student organizations

Industry-recognized credentials

Work-based Learning

– Career mentorships

Pre-apprenticeship programs

Part-time work

Ohio’s Career Connections Framework also offers a guide to career connections by subject and grade level that is synced to content standards.  

Kirsten Mahovlich, CMSD’s Curriculum and Instruction content manager for grades seven through 12, explained that Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has introduced Career Connections Framework, a joint initiative of Ohio’s Office of Workforce Transformation, the Ohio Department of Higher Education, and the Ohio Department of Education. The goal of the initiative, explained on the prior page, is to give students of all ages opportunities to discover their interests and talents, explore careers, and make plans for their futures.

“We are hoping to identify jobs and careers that are aligned to specific academic content,” Mahovlich said. “We’d also like to be able to provide information and resources for both teachers and students about those careers, including hands-on and real-world experiences, internships, externships, and guest speakers. The sky’s the limit.”

To that end, NeoSTEM leaders began to identify the various STEM careers, both “traditional” and “non-traditional,” that align to academics. Food service industries, for example, support a host of STEM jobs. 

“You’ve got the people who figure out what portions of ingredients go into a product and how much of it to order,” said Sarah Dunifon, founder of Improved Insights, a Cleveland-based consulting firm. “There’s math in that. There are chemists who actually look at food science. You’ve got the dieticians who calculate what it means for human consumption. You can find STEM in pretty much any company if you’re willing to look hard enough.”

Mahovlich said she is eager to bring forward some lesser known STEM professions as a part of the process of connecting to community for STEM gains for all.

The Real World of STEM committee – made up of individuals listed in Chart A in the Appendix has identified this linked spreadsheet of organizations from throughout the region as possible providers of meaningful STEM experiences for students. 

Additionally, the committee has developed a list of little known STEM professions that could be of interest to students. 

Unusual STEM Professions: 

Animal nutritionist

Bicycle repair person

Certified ethical hacker 

Food and flavor chemist 

Furniture upholsterer

Gameplay Engineer

Medical illustrator


Pastry chef 

Pyrotechnic Engineer

Recording engineer

Robotics engineer

Roller Coaster engineer

Underwater Archeologist 


Team NEO – 

Top In-Demand Careers in Northeast Ohio – Team NEO offers average salaries, education requirements and videos from young professionals sharing the pathways they took as they were searching for the right career.

Ohio Department of Education – 

Career Pathways – The career pathway models, linked here, were developed around Ohio’s in-demand occupations, according to the July 2015 In-Demand Occupations. Secondary and post-secondary courses reflect career-tech programs approved by the Ohio Department of Education and Ohio Board of Regents in 2015.

O*NET OnLine – 

(Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration.)

O*Net Online offers a link to a variety of STEM professions, complete with needed skills, the outlook for demand, description of work involved and the needed education as well as possible training and certifications. It also offers salary ranges for various ) 

Real World of STEM Working Group Members

First Name Last Name Email Organization
Katie Adkins Baldwin Wallace University
Beverly Burks
Grady Burrows HIT in the CLE
Liz Deegan Advantage Cleveland Tennis and Education,  Inc.
Dick Dieffenderfer Ohio Technology and Engineering Educators Assoc.
Donna Flynt Parker
Robin Hilsmeier Ohio Invention League
Angela Jones NEORSD
Anees Khanam CMSD
Kirsten Lakso MC2STEM High School
Nadia Leary Lorain County Community College
Alyssa Lenhoff-Briggs
Alexander Leslie MyCom Cleveland
Lisa Mack MyCom – Mt. Pleasant Region
Feowyn MacKinnon MC2STEM
Kirsten Mahovlich Cleveland Metro Schools
Joan Perch Lorain County Community College
Ruth Ray
John Roszczyk NeoSTEM
Imani Scruggs OSU Extension
Jeremy Shorr TIES
Glen Shumate ACE Mentor
Carrie Wilson ASM Materials Education Foundation