Other Innovation Initiatives

Today’s global economy increasingly demands that groups and individuals innovate in order to remain competitive. The NEA Foundation continually seeks to support creative opportunities that focus on 21st century readiness for every student.

Urban farming programs in Milwaukee and New York grow students’ interest in STEM

Together with AT&T, the NEA Foundation will continue to support popular urban farming initiatives through the expansion of school programs in Milwaukee, WI and New York, NY. The Urban School Aquaponics Initiative in Milwaukee and Project EATS, a program of the Active Citizens Project, in New York, were selected because of their early success in advancing STEM education among low-income and minority students.


Their goal is to increase urban students’ interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and provide more students with the skills they need for 21st century jobs. The curriculum and instructional content developed over the two-year funding period could be used by educators to build similar programs nationwide.


STEM-related career opportunities are among the fastest-growing of all occupational clusters. The majority of these jobs will require post-secondary education, yet current projections show that the United States will fall short of demand for workers with post-secondary education by as much as 5 million by 2020.

While minorities make up an increasing percentage of students in the United States, they continue to be underrepresented in STEM fields.

Projects like these empower educators to develop and use proven practices to deliver rigorous, engaging learning experiences that we know excite and interest underrepresented student groups in STEM.

Thanks to support from the NEA Foundation and AT&T, over the last three years, the Urban Schools Aquaponics Initiative has been integrated into nine new schools, for a total of 13 Milwaukee public schools. With continued support, five new schools will join the ranks, reaching a total of 1,500 Milwaukee Public School students over two years.


The funding also supports the development of a comprehensive aquaponics curriculum aligned with the newly released math and science standards that will be piloted in the participating schools.


Ultimately, an aquaponics curriculum would be available to all 49 high schools and 125 K-8 schools, with the potential to reach all 78,500 students in the district.

In New York, Project EATS builds farms on school grounds, where students work with experienced farmers to grow, package, and market their products as they acquire skills and expertise in homemade product manufacturing, business and marketing, promotion, and sales. With the new funding, Project EATS will be offered in five additional high schools, potentially reaching more than 1,500 students.


The funding will also be used to standardize a four-year curriculum, with more focus on STEM learning, as well as experiential and peer-to-peer learning.

Watch the videos below of previous STEM work in Milwaukee, and read the NEA Foundation’s report, “Harnessing the Potential of Innovative STEM Education Programs: Stories of Collaboration, Connectedness and Empowerment.”


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