Heather Beem PhD ’15 discovered her passion for STEM education and promoting hands-on learning around the world through her time at MIT where she began developing the idea for the Practical Education Network (PEN).
Infused with MIT’s ethos of ‘learning by doing,’ PEN provides teacher training workshops in resource-constrained environments to explore a wealth of hands-on STEM activities using low-cost, locally available materials. Their mission is to empower educators around the globe to engage their students in these projects within the structure of traditional education programs.
Heather met co-founder Anna Waldman-Brown ’11, currently a master’s student in the MIT Technology and Policy Program (expected 2018), at a mixer hosted by the IDEAS Global Challenge, where she first pitched the idea for PEN. They decided to form a team and enter the competition, winning the Global Villages Challenge award in 2011, which included funding and advising. In addition, they won the IEEE/IBM Smarter Planet Challenge, 1st Place Curriculum in 2012, and the MIT Sloan Africa Initiative Business Plan Competition in 2015.
Since 2014, PEN has been running workshops around Ghana with local partners and has trained over 1,500 teachers in hands-on activities. Their ‘teach-the-teachers’ business model is leveraging their network of partners to reach scale.