WHSTEP was established in 1989 in response to a call from the National Science Foundation for improved science education and science literacy in the U.S. Until the formation of the partnership, science outreach to local schools was spotty, and occurred largely as the result of the interest of individuals. Given the rich scientific and technical resources of the community, many recognized the value of formalizing these interactions and making them available for all local teachers and students.
With the support of the science institutions, a group of interested individuals organized a series of educational forums in the village of Woods Hole. The forums brought together large numbers of people from all the Woods Hole research institutions and agencies, the Falmouth school system, Falmouth Academy, the community, and science-related businesses who wanted to be involved in assisting and supporting K-12 science education in the local schools. These forums led to the formation of the Woods Hole Science and Technology Education Partnership (WHSTEP) as a collaboration of schools, science institutions and agencies, businesses and community members “to support, promote and enhance science education, and science literacy in the participating communities.” WHSTEP has since expanded to include the Bourne and Mashpee Schools as well as those in Falmouth.
The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has served as both informal home to WHSTEP and its fiscal agent. All member organizations provide financial support through annual dues, and also have provided material resources, meeting space, and staff time and expertise.