Columbus Learning Ecosystem Initiative

Building Learner Experiences Throughout Columbus to “Amp Up” K-12 Education and Meet the Moment of Opportunity and Economic Expansion

A new pilot of a community-based, learner-centered ecosystem has come to life in Columbus, Ohio. A tight partnership of the STEM visionary PAST Foundation, learner-centered leader 100 Roads, the state and global corporate leaders has yielded the development of a pilot K–12 ecosystem. It weaves together learning hubs and dynamic field sites throughout the city, with emerging new “home bases” anchoring young people in relationships and support. This interconnected experience is drawn from a vision for ecosystems, codified by Education Reimagined and a field of visionaries, and is becoming a new way to experience “school” in the city.


Columbus is the fastest growing city in Ohio. As Central Ohio has built its technology infrastructure with 5G, it has attracted several global leaders to build technology and advanced manufacturing operations there. Companies include Honda, manufacturing EV batteries, Intel producing microchips, and data centers for Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google. By 2050, the population in Ohio is projected to grow by 30 percent as a result.

These companies seek a workforce of skilled, creative problem-solvers, and self-determined humans to take on this work. They recognize that the current K–12 system needs to shift dramatically to fulfill these needs and in their words, “amp it up.”


While the urgent need for workforce development has sparked this K–12 evolution, this learner-centered ecosystem is fundamentally designed to support the fulfillment, purpose and sense of belonging among learners. It’s developed to ensure young people find their role in the burgeoning community, seize opportunity as businesses grow, and understand ways they can contribute. It’s an endeavor to fundamentally change what K–12 teaching and learning looks like in Columbus.

The team is:

  • Building virtual home bases—safe, nurturing environments where learners and an advisor ground themselves in lasting relationships, forge learning pathways and map progress
  • Leveraging and advancing learning hubs—by furthering the 20-year legacy of the 32,000-square foot PAST Foundation Lab, and its five industry-driven innovation labs
    • Introducing portable learning and innovation labs that travel into neighborhoods for learner exploration
  • Creating a suite of physical, digital and Metaverse-based field sites where explorations and projects are pursued in partnership with industry

Learners have the opportunity to work with partners like Battelle, AWS, Bath & Body Works, Honda and more, who provide financial support and hands-on projects with internships and apprenticeships. Learners engage in such activities including fusion splicing, robotics, data analysis and earn credentials for this learning that relay tangible value to employers and toward higher education.

In this, the team also is advancing a technology infrastructure to enable the tight networking of experiences and learning along each child’s learning journey. It’s codifying learnings, outcomes, and implementation research along the way.

Ecosystem in Action

In September, nearly 100 children from Columbus began learning in this ecosystem. These young people include homeschoolers in elementary, middle and high school, and a group of high schoolers in specific workforce programming with industry partners. The goal is to expand to 600 learners by 2025.
Learner looking at laptop

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Interested in supporting or championing an ecosystem initiative in your community?