2021 Grants Accepted through October the 15th

✨Announcing RFP grant recipients soon! ✨

STEM Education for the next generation of innovators & inventors

Since 2007, the Dunham Foundation has invested more than $9.4 million in 35 grants to 18 area nonprofits that include, 13 schools, to introduce and embed STEM education.

Dunham Foundation’s investment in education began while John and his wife, Judy, were active members of the greater Aurora community. Their focus on supporting innovative educational initiatives became one of the priorities of the Foundation, beginning 16 years ago with some of the first grants.

Recently, the Dunham Foundation created scholarship funds honoring the legacy of board members who passed away while serving or have retired. The Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley (CFFRV) administers these scholarships. Judy B. Dunham’s scholarship supports a student in nursing-a STEM field-since Judy and her sister were nurses at a local hospital.

We can see the impact on our local youth by infusing STEM education into the school curriculum and after-school programs by the high percentage of students-53%-declaring a major in STEM who received a scholarship through the CFFRV Scholarship Program.

How STEM became a priority in the Dunham Foundation Service Area

Shortly after the Dunham Foundation became an active grantmaker in 2007, the Challenge for Change initiative was launched to encourage innovative and creative solutions to challenges faced by community members in the defined Dunham Foundation Service Area. The first step in the Challenge for Change initiative was to provide planning grants to nonprofits whose concepts were chosen by the Dunham Foundation Board, requesting the nonprofit further develop the concept presented. The planning grants allowed them the time needed to collaborate with their nonprofit peers, when applicable, to create programs or projects that addressed the community’s needs.

Dr. Sherry Eagle, then-Director of Aurora University’s Institute for Collaboration, presented an audacious concept to create a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) educational environment, partnering with four school districts in the Service Area.

John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School

This concept would become known as the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School. Once the framework of the STEM ecosystem was established, the concept for teaching STEM infused across subjects could be shared with participating school districts, other interested school districts, youth-serving educational organizations, and private schools throughout Chicagoland, Illinois, and beyond.

Aurora University (AU) was awarded a grant to continue the development of its concept in the second phase of the Challenge for Change. AU invited representatives, including K-12 educators, experts in child development, children’s museum representatives, and University professors, plus other community stakeholders such as local tech-related corporations, to spend a year developing a curriculum that would develop a deeper curiosity in STEM concepts and cultivate characteristics that employers look for in employees such as problem-solving, working effectively with team members, cognitive flexibility, and sequencing or planning.

While in the planning phase, AU was awarded a $3 million grant by the Dunham Foundation to support building a state-of-art facility on AU’s campus to house 3-8 grade students and teachers from four districts during normal school hours. Classrooms and labs were outfitted with modular furniture that could be adjusted for a younger student during the day and converted to a classroom for university students at night.

Through STEM activities, students build confidence in experimenting and learn perseverance. They learn to work with technology and are encouraged to develop more creative and critical thinking skills.

The John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School was open from 2013 – 2021, and though the school closed its doors, the concept of STEM education has become mainstream beyond the original four districts that sent students and teachers to the John C. Dunham STEM Partnership School.

Thanks to a BIG IDEA, many students living in the Dunham Foundation Service Area have been introduced to the phenomenon that science, technology, engineering, and math are woven into every detail of our lives and inspired to pursue careers in the STEM fields.



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