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On-Site Staff / Partnerships and Building Relationships / Program Design, Development, and Quality / Staff Leadership and Management

STEM and Wellness: Colliding Galaxies

My fellow BOOST Breakfast Club blogger, Erika Petrelli of The Leadership Program recently wrote an article that explored the “beauty of galaxies colliding.” My inner Galileo loves the thought of swirling stars and as partnership director for a national children’s health nonprofit, social justice movements working together to accelerate and grow is even more thrilling.

For galaxies to collide and movements to join forces, there has to be space.

A recent Harvard Business Review article, The Benefits of Taking a Slower Approach to Innovation discussed creating space for innovation to grow by being “rigorous about fostering serendipity.” The authors explain, “time, and energy, has to be dedicated to finding the unexpected.”

With deadlines and capacity limitations, the challenge becomes how to find these spaces and the time to be present when we finally find them.

Intentionally finding space and time to “find the unexpected.”

This May was my third time presenting at the Best Out-of-School Time (BOOST) Conference. 

It is one of my favorite events of the year – a gathering of afterschool champions dedicated to innovation in expanded learning and afterschool.


The topic of my workshop was #PartnershipsWithPurpose and based on a BOOST Breakfast Club article I wrote in 2015 featuring advice from nine friends in the afterschool field on how they approach collaboration. The article was a great space to explore the topic of partnerships and as Erika Petrelli put it, “people are fascinating.” Building the article out into a 2-hour workshop gave me permission to explore a bit further. The goal was to pair my friends’ tips with hands-on activities and discussions.

My “colliding galaxies” moment happened after my workshop when I met someone who attended my session, Erin Hogeboom, the National Girls Collaborative Project Community Development and Network Strategy Manager.

If you’ve been in one of my workshops, you know I like using art supplies. A recent attendee summed it up well in an evaluation by saying, “more time, less glitter.” Erin helped me clean up after the workshop (the first sign I met a great collaborator). As we scooped up glue sticks, organized markers and shared more about our respective work, our galaxies collided.

girl-hula-hoopingColliding for Equity

Q: What does STEM have to do with creating healthier schools and communities?

A: At the heart of our movements, STEM and health are equity issues.

The National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP) is dedicated to bringing organizations together to encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM. As part of her work, Erin also supports the most comprehensive portal for STEM programs in the country, the Connectory.

As we work nationally to create healthy schools and communities, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is the technical assistance partner for the National Recreation and Park Association Commit to Health initiative. In three years of working with recreation agencies, we’ve learned a lot about linking parks, outdoors and health. Why not more formally explore STEM linkages? It’s a natural connection, right?

Time and money are tight; thousands of youth serving organizations across the country are faced with the challenge of balancing academic achievement with nutrition enrichment and physical activity.

What would happen if we intentionally blended them?

youth-outdoor-playExploring and Trying Not to Spiral Out of Control

After returning home from the BOOST Conference in early May, Erin and I began working on a short document to tell the story of why blending STEM and wellness is important. After a few drafts, we included friends from the field, including Afterschool Alliance, California After School Network, National AfterSchool Association and the National Recreation and Park Association. As our exploration expanded, we learned of local programs already working to link the issues together.

Guess what? Over ten drafts in, we’re still finalizing it. The more we learn and the more people we engage with, the more exciting the conversation gets. Maybe you’re a star in one of the galaxies of STEM and wellness. If so, I’d love for you to join the conversation.

This July, we’re partnering with SaludToday for a Twitter chat, STEM & Wellness: A Powerful Combination. Our goal is to bring more voices into the exploration, dialogue together and encourage this galaxy collision to grow.

To Infinity and …

In the coming days, our resource “STEM and Wellness: A Powerful Equation for Equity” will become available. Keep an eye on #STEMwellness to access the document and join the conversation. Later this fall, the topic of blending STEM and wellness will be featured during the National AfterSchool Association’s third annual Virtual Convention featuring strategy, tools and program ideas.

Thank you to the BOOST Conference for providing space for our galaxies to collide and to the National Girls Collaborative Project for being a true partnership with purpose.

*Disclaimer: I tried to keep the galaxy analogy as accurate as possible as I wrote this article. I welcome any clarifications, additions and resources in the comment section. After all, we’re all scientists, right?

For breakfast, I had coffee and a few slices of watermelon.

*All photos courtesy Alliance for a Healthier Generation

Author Profile: @danielh

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  1. Profile Photo

    Great job @danielh! Your #PartnershipswithPurpose workshop was a hit at the conference – I look forward to seeing the next one.

  2. Profile Photo

    Thanks Meg!

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