About Us

The Footprints (where we’ve come from):

Next Steps has been putting science into students’ hands for over twenty years. As science educators around the country rallied around the National Science Standards, released in 1993, several small pockets of innovation began to develop science materials centers and professional development programs geared toward increasing momentum and building capacity for science education reform. Next Steps was born out of this momentum, as the place for the reformers to come together to share best practices, learn from each other, and develop their professional next step. The first Next Step Institute was hosted in Mesa, AZ, as “an advanced leadership institute for elementary science.”  It drew over 300 participants from 30 states and that Institute was a catalyst for programs that have grown into ongoing support of hands-on learning, that serves educators in elementary, middle, and high school, as well as undergraduate pre-service education programs. In its inception, the Association of Science Materials Centers, now Next Steps, was the only professional organization in the national science education community that represents the needs and interests of the more than 200 science materials centers operating in the United States. Since that time, the organization has broadened its focus to support a hands-on learning platform for students across the country.

The Need (revolutionizing a system):

Increasingly, we are expecting our students to understand complex ideas and apply analytical skills to problems in preparation for their roles as leaders, citizens, and the jobs of the 21st century. Research indicates that a country that attempts to move towards a knowledge-based economy, which the United States desires to be, but does not keep pace in developing a highly-skilled labor force will face constraints to its growth. In order to reach that goal, educators must learn to teach in ways that develop higher order thinking and performance. In other words, these new needs require a new kind of teaching.

Students spend 2 million minutes in high school, how do we use that time wisely? What do they deserve?

Our approach:

Next Steps holds a strong believe in students learning by doing, and in order for them to ‘do’ STEM education, content should be taught in an applied manner where science learning is an active process rather than a series of facts. The key to reaching that goal is a well-prepared system of educators that have the knowledge, tools, confidence, and abilities to effectively engage students in hands-on, minds-on learning. Thus, Next Steps:

  1. Designs and delivers annual programming through Next Step Institutes. Institutes are organized in strands of learning, strands promote sustainable models for improving teaching and learning in K-16 STEM content; encourage planning for improving instruction that is informed by research, and best practices; highlight local, state, regional, and national resources; and further connect networks of informed professioanls working to increase student achievement and engagement thorugh the implementation of effective programs.
  2. Promotes learning in a hands-on, minds-on, manner with effective materials. We help make the case for the use of hands-on curriculum and materials in the classroom and the ongoing professional development that makes these tools most effective. 
  3. Ensures that the whole education community, both formal and informal, has access to the materials, strategies, and inspiration to make learning come alive!