All students have the right to equitable, integrated, career connected, locally relevant, field-based learning – so that they understand the interconnectedness of systems and can make decisions to support socially just, sustainable communities. 

Why FieldSTEM?

What is FieldSTEM?

FieldSTEM® is our signature model designed to help classroom teachers, schools and school districts implement equitable environmental and sustainability education. This teaching and learning model engages students, educators, administrators and community collaborators in building a scientifically literate citizenry prepared and inspired to make balanced decisions for sustainable communities. When taught with fidelity, FieldSTEM is career connected, locally relevant, integrated, field-based education.

FieldSTEM projects engage students in the practices that prepare them for the Washington science, math and ELA assessments. They also support students in the development of critical thinking and civic engagement  in the social sciences including Since Time Immemorial, economics, geography, civics, employability skills and technology, which are not formally assessed by the state of Washington. 


  • Takes students and teachers outside to become aware of and connected to the natural systems at the core of life on Earth.
  • Exposes students and teachers to the career opportunities driving the economy in their community by collaborating with local organizations, agencies, and industry.
  • Works to create a classroom culture that welcomes and includes diverse perspectives and values and discusses pros and cons of solutions with civil discourse.
  • Integrates core subject standards around authentic, locally relevant projects to engage students and teachers in how learning can be applied to the real questions, problems and issues of their communities.
  • Aligns the efforts of formal educators and nonformal community collaborators to improve student learning.
  • And works toward a day when all students in their role as learners have voice and are active productive scientists and citizens in their communities.

Our professional development model demonstrates and embeds research-based instructional practices that encourage educators toward continual improvement in FieldSTEM delivery. Our FieldSTEM Implementation Continuums, at the classroom, school and district level, identify components of FieldSTEM implementation and provide indicators for three levels of implementation: 1. Exploring, 2. Emerging, and 3. School of Excellence. To learn about upcoming professional development opportunities, please see our events calendar.

More About PEI

We are leading the FieldSTEM movement in Washington by connecting the natural resource, agriculture, and environmental sectors to education and providing businesses with tools to effectively engage students in career connected learning that will help them attain employment and thrive in future jobs. By collaborating with marginalized communities including rural, low-income, and Tribal communities, we promote diverse and inclusive models of learning that lead to equity, one of our core values. At the same time, we are helping to bridge the gap between major workforce needs that go unmet in the natural resource, agriculture, and environment sectors, and student perception that there are no jobs available in their communities.

Our resources and tools include customizable, integrated curriculum guides and performance tasks that are designed by education experts and aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). As we serve more educators, schools, and districts throughout the state, we are continually developing and refining our tools and resources to meet teacher needs.

To learn more about implementing FieldSTEM in your classroom, school, or district, please contact our Associate Director of Columbia Basin & Coast Region, Megan Rivard, at [email protected]; or our Associate Director of Puget Sound Region, Molly Griffiths, at [email protected].

What Educational Leaders are Saying About FieldSTEM

Madison Crow

Shelton School District
Why FieldSTEM | 01/03/2021

Heather McMullen

Puyallup School District
Overview and the Importance of FieldSTEM | 01/03/2021

Dr. Kala Lougheed

Kalama School District
2018 FieldSTEM Leadership Institute | 07/03/2018

Julie Price

Chewelah School District
FieldSTEM Leadership Institute | 07/03/2018


PEI is committed to inclusivity and to modeling inclusive practices in our work. This includes actively expanding the diversity of our staff and board and inviting others to participate with us as we work to build a more equitable landscape for learning so that all of Washington’s students see themselves as part of the solution to building sustainable communities.

PEI operates on the deeply-felt principle that high-quality K-12 education is a right for all students, not a privilege for a few. We believe that locally relevant, career connected, environmental and sustainability education leads to equality and social justice. To that end, we focus our efforts on public school districts and schools, and we often work with resource-strapped schools with high populations of marginalized and underrepresented students. We work with some of the smallest and most remote school districts such as Cape Flattery, Colfax and Naselle-Grays River. We also work with several of our state’s Tribal Nations, collaborating with educators at Tribal schools to develop and embed Indigenous values and traditions in natural resource management education.

To ensure accessibility to FieldSTEM, we seek funds to support our work so that our workshops are low-cost to educators, and so we can compensate educators for their time, travel and other expenses they may incur while attending our workshops. Furthermore, we offer our FieldSTEM guides, frameworks and units for free on our website, and when we do print and bind our guides, we don’t charge educators beyond our direct cost.

Integrated Learning

To effectively build sustainable communities in Seattle, Longview or Colton, Washington, students today need to understand and participate in conversations that incorporate the dynamic global exchange of knowledge and information. Students who are literate in multiple disciplines and comfortable balancing the pros and cons of decisions among them will be highly valued community members and employees.

FieldSTEM fosters knowledge, skills and abilities beginning in the pre-kindergarten classroom by integrating study around meaningful topics. Integration is an effective approach to learning as it helps students develop expertise in the important role interrelationships play in the real world. 

Career Connected Learning

Sustainable communities are built on strong social and economic systems that steward the environmental systems that support them. Career connected learning (CCL) is an initiative developed through partnerships between educators, workforce development professionals and employers seeking articulated pathways describing  how the knowledge, skills, and abilities a student gains in pre-K-12 schooling articulates with the needs to successfully become employed or move into post-secondary programs (certifications, Associate, Bachelor, Masters, and Doctoral degrees).

Our work has always connected students to actual questions, problems, issues, and opportunities that employed people in their community are facing – we engage students in the real work of the community. CCL at PEI is the intentional support we provide educators to ensure that the work students do in the classroom is meaningful in the community outside the classroom.

  • At younger grade levels, students visit local organizations and businesses to learn about the work in their communities and gain exposure to the variety of work that relates to the natural resources, agriculture, and environmental sectors.
  • In intermediate grades, they continue to be exposed to more professionals in their community and begin to explore the skills needed to succeed in those professions.
  • In middle and high school, students take their career exploration to a new level with work-integrated learning wherein they actively investigate questions, design solutions, or build consensus in the classroom to make contributions to local organizations or businesses actual work. Students at these grade levels may also be involved in work-based learning, where they work at a job site, or even internships and apprenticeships.

At all levels, engaging students in the work of their community gives them a “seat at the table” by strengthening their knowledge and skills and empowering their voice in their communities. Our FieldSTEM Model, when implemented with high-impact field experiences at every grade level, builds the knowledge, skills and abilities of students pre-K-12 toward jobs in the natural resource, agriculture, environmental, and outdoor recreation sectors.

Download our Career Connected Learning Teaching Materials and Resources and our Career Connected Learning Research and Reports.

Youth Engaged in Sustainable Systems (YESS)

About YESS:

The YESS program model is grounded in collaboration between PEI, school districts, skill centers, and local community partners. YESS high school participants earn school credit and a stipend while building their job skills and exploring careers in natural resources or education. Over their program, students’ classroom time is paired with hands-on service activities at community partner sites. 

Upon course completion, teachers provide each student with a signed “document of competency” that rates their proficiency in a variety of entry-level industry-related skills. These documents of competency were designed by PEI with guidance from industry leaders and research on natural resource or education workforce development trends. Students can use this document to craft their resumes and better articulate their skills when applying for jobs. 

Students earn: 

  • High school credit 
  • Participation stipend
  • Signed document of competency 
  • Hands-on skills, work, and learning experience 
  • Credit at postsecondary institutions (when articulated)

YESS program topics available

  • Forest Management  
  • Restoration Ecology 
  • Education through Outdoor Learning 

“The growth in the student participants over the 6 weeks of the programs was incredible. There was growth in communication, time management, problem-solving, and flexibility, specific job skills related to restoration ecology, and environmental literacy. Their final presentations really showcased their accomplishments to partners and stakeholders”. – Robin Driver, science teacher at Eisenhower High School in Yakima.

Contact [email protected] to launch a YESS program.

YESS Program Flyer

Locally Relevant

Just as no two individuals are the same, no school, school district or community is the same as any other. We celebrate this diversity at PEI. Our FieldSTEM Model is designed to be a framework for research-based inclusive educational practices. When PEI works with educators, there is always space to make sure that the product or practice is locally relevant, designed to connect to the individuals and the community – the place – where it will be implemented.

The places in which we live, the history of the land and people, influence the communities of today. PEI encourages students to learn about the land, the reasons that people settled, how that settlement led to past and current practices and to ask, “Are these current practices culturally, economically and ecologically sustainable?” PEI encourages students to explore the economic engines in their communities, the organizations, agencies, and industries that drive the employment, to learn how the local economy is interrelated to the ecosystem and the diverse perspectives and cultures of the citizens. When students are engaged in answering real questions, solving real problems and issues and capitalizing on real opportunities, they are more likely to meet the standards that our educational systems use to measure success.


Field-Based Learning

Why take students outdoors to learn? The reasons are many and varied. In the 1970s children spent twice as much time outdoors as they do today. How this affects us is increasingly understood as medical professionals see the impacts on human health of increased sedentary time indoors. We incorporated field-based time as one of the critical components of our FieldSTEM Model for two reasons:

  1. In order for teachers and students to care about the health of the ecosystem, they need the capacity and confidence to spend time outside, paying attention to the lessons that come from other living organisms and making observations that they can use to increase their understanding and make sense of the world around them.
  2. Some students come with a complex understanding of the natural world and excel in outdoor learning environments. If they are only taught indoors, they may never be seen as community contributors or as knowledgeable and with gifts to share.

If our education system does not work to build an understanding of and appreciation for natural systems and how they are impacted by and sustain our social and economic systems, our communities will not be sustainable.

Read research related to the importance of field-based learning.