Outreach is an activity of providing services to populations who might not otherwise have access to those services. In rural and regional Australia outreach is often carried out by non-profit, non-governmental organisations, and by education providers, such as universities.
University-school outreach has a scholarly, rather than public relations profile, which represents a reciprocal learning/teaching situation that increases both the schools' capacity to address issues and the capacity of academic staff to produce scholarship. University Outreach Programs constitute a form of scholarship that cuts across teaching, to transmit, apply and preserve knowledge for the direct benefit of an external audience that is consistent with university, faculty or unit missions.
Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) outreach programs take many forms, including presentation of classroom or web-based materials, complex professional learning seminars and mobile, face-to-face, resource intensive student activities. These outreach activities may be one off presentations through to a series of ongoing, regular and strategically timed connections. Personnel who facilitate these programs may be single individuals, or teams comprised of teachers, independent educators, university staff and/or students, staff from other STEM education institutions such as science centres, museums or zoological parks, or industry based experts.
Despite the differing motivations, themes, presentation formats and target audiences of university-school STEM outreach programs, the most common goal is to, directly or indirectly, engage students and encourage participation in STEM fields at school and into the future.