Developing A Partnership: The Natural Academy Of Science And Drexel University

Posted by
Jared Nielsen
December 10, 2015

The Natural Academy of Science and Drexel University were founded as two separate institutions in Philadelphia, PA in the 1800s. For over a hundred years they worked separately in STEM education and research, until 2011 when they formed an affiliation, The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

The affiliation was a synergistic opportunity that draws on the strengths of both institutions. When forming the partnership, Drexel and the Academy were looking for ways to leverage their strengths to deepen and extend their impact in the Philadelphia community. The Academy draws upon the University’s faculty and resources for its exhibitions and programs, and the University can access the Academy’s vast natural science collections and researchers. Drexel faculty find the museum a rich place to do research and student projects, and all parties continue to explore new ways to work together. Furthermore, both institutions came together to create a new environmental sciences department, Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science (BEES) for the fields of environmental science, earth sciences, ecology and conservation, and biodiversity and evolution. When forming the new department, the Academy opened its curated resources of the natural world to Drexel faculty and student researchers. One outcome for the Academy has been their ability to be more responsive and sustainable in a changing learning ecosystem, and to further establish their role as an important resource for learning in the community.

Supporting STEM Education In Philadelphia

Drexel and the Academy support STEM education in a variety of ways. The Academy provides STEM programming focused on experiential learning to a middle school in the neighborhood, and the museum offers teacher professional development workshops with opportunities for educators to experience research fieldwork. At Drexel the BEES environmental science program requires working “in the field,” so it nicely complements the museum’s education mission. Drexel students volunteer at the museum, and biology and engineering students have helped develop exhibits at the museum.

The Future For Drexel University And The Natural Academy Of Science Affiliation

Since the relationship is new - activities having started in 2013 and 2014 - no formal evaluation of the partnership has been conducted thus far. Anecdotally, the Philadelphia philanthropic community views the partnership positively, and would like to see other nonprofits follow our example.

In the future, both institutions would like to be more fully integrated, and be perceived by the Philadelphia community as a single resource with diverse opportunities for learning and engagement. Ideally, no one would be able to tell that we were once separate!