Alyssa Schwenk is the research associate at Change the Equation, a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM education nationwide. To that end, they have developed iOn Future, a program geared toward sparking middle schoolers’ interest in a STEM career.
Looking for a way to introduce your students to the wide world of STEM this summer? Try iOn Future, an online learning suite featuring four STEM-centric games. iOn Future helps middle schoolers see how STEM is used every day in their own world, and helps them identify what STEM careers might be most interesting to them. It's designed to support and extend programming around STEM and STEM careers. Leaders can use the game to preview units on STEM careers, and students can use the game independently to explore career paths of interest to them like astrobiology, oceanography or mechanical engineering. Download the iOn Future Learning Guide or visit iOnFuture.org to learn more.
In the STEM Career Matchmaker game, students can choose topics of interest and are returned a list of careers that match. They can further sort careers by the skills needed, education level required and the potential salary they can make.
|Sherry Comer is the director of afterschool services in Camdenton, Missouri, and a former Afterschool Ambassador. Her school’s FIRST Robotics team went to the FIRST Robotics World Championships in St. Louis, Missouri, this year.|
Every day in Camdenton, Missouri, R-III afterschool programs, change is happening. Students are developing 21stcentury skills that will carry them into the future to be successful in an ever-changing global economy.
Through FIRSTRobotics, 4th through 12th grade students in our rural community have gotten excited and engaged in what is often referred to as “the hardest fun ever!” Our teachers and technical mentors push them to use science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to go over, under, around and through walls that society says they can’t penetrate. FIRST is designed to create an atmosphere where students combine the excitement of sports with the rigors of STEM. Under strict rules and with limited resources and tight time limits, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team "brand," hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to "real-world engineering" as a student can get.
Below, watch the Camdenton 4-H LASER team's winning robot in action!
Note: These awards have a very short timeline, so don't delay!
Apply now for the NASA 2013 Summer of Innovation (SoI) Mini-Awards Program, and receive NASA STEM educational content for your program and up to $2,500 in funding. The SoI program is designed for students entering grades 4-9 and to be integrated into existing summer or afterschool programs. Programs should take place between June 17, 2013, and Dec. 16, 2013. The mini-awards application process will end on June 10, 2013, and NASA will begin notifying selected organizations on June 17, 2013. To read more about the SoI Mini-Awards and apply online, visit www.soi-mini-awards.com.
For more information about the history of the Summer of Innovation project and potential curriculum content, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/soi. To learn more about NASA’s broader education programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/education.
This week, 20 youth finalist teams will meet at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, for the Conrad Foundation’s 2013 Innovation Summit. Teams will present their designs of a “global innovation product” developed for the Spirit of Innovation Challenge to a panel of scientists, industry leaders, entrepreneurs and government officials. Challenged to create commercially viable products to address issues of global sustainability, teams applied their STEM knowledge in innovative ways, developing products for one of four categories—Aerospace and Aviation; Cybertechnology and Security; Energy and Environment; and Health and Nutrition. These young entrepreneurs will undergo a tough evaluation on technical content and market viability from an expert panel, and the winning team in each category will receive a $10,000 grant to continue their product development.
I spoke with one of the teams, Chicks in Space, a subset of the Neighborhood After School Science Association (NASSA) from Ava, NY. MaryAnn, Lillith and Adia—ages 17, 14 and 12, respectively—are among the 5 teams competing in the Aerospace and Aviation category. Their product, the Garden of ETON (Extraterrestrial Organic Nutrition), provides a way for astronauts weary of dehydrated foods to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables. Through a series of experiments on plant growth in microgravity conditions, Chicks in Space developed a hydroponic gardening system that can be used in space! Their original submission video, below, follows the research and development process of the Garden of ETON.
The Afterschool Alliance and the Noyce Foundation are excited to announce the new Afterschool STEM Impact Awards! Two $10,000 awards will be awarded to exemplary afterschool programs offering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to students in grades 4 through 8.
As afterschool STEM programming grows around the nation, we want to recognize programs that are clearly demonstrating their impact on participants. Such programs highlight the power of afterschool programs as key partners in STEM education reform and can also serve as best-practice models.
In addition to the cash award, winners and other notable applicants will be promoted nationally through a variety of opportunities—they will be featured in a special series of Afterschool Alliance issue briefs, invited to participate in webinars, co-present at national and state conferences, and generally highlighted as model programs.
- Afterschool programs that are a strong partnership between an afterschool provider and a STEM-rich institution(s), which include science centers or museums, nature centers, universities, government labs, STEM-related businesses, or other similar institutions. Programs may focus on any STEM topic.
- Afterschool programs that have a strong computing and/or engineering component. Computing is not about learning how to use technology—it’s acquiring the skills and knowledge required to create technology. For the purposes of this contest, computing includes but is not limited to coding, programming mobile apps, and software or hardware design. Engineering programs should be rooted in the engineering design process, and students should be developing and building a solution to a problem.
Additional details are available on the award website, along with a link to the online application. Applications are due by May 15, 2013.
Know an afterschool program that’s perfect for this award? Share this opportunity with your colleagues and friends. We can’t wait to hear about the fantastic STEM programs across the nation and the impact that they’re having on kids!
Regular followers of the Afterschool Alliance will have heard about our recent report, “Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool,” which asked experienced afterschool providers and supporters to identify appropriate and feasible outcomes for afterschool STEM learning. The report also provides a framework to map how afterschool programs contribute to larger STEM education goals. Read our blog post for a quick overview of the report.
The Museum of Science in Boston also recently released a report describing the evaluation process of Engineering Adventures, a research-based engineering curriculum for third through fifth graders especially designed for out-of-school-time environments. Jonathan Hertel, Research and Evaluation Associate for Engineering is Elementary, writes about the learning outcomes they observed during the curriculum evaluation and the research team’s efforts to develop an assessment tool to capture those outcomes.
Engineering Adventures (EA) is an engineering curriculum created especially for out-of-school-time (OST) programs. In EA, children are introduced to the engineering design process as they ask questions, imagine, plan, create and improve solutions to real-world problems. More than a decade ago, the Engineering is Elementary team at the Museum of Science, Boston, began creating engineering curricula for use in elementary school classrooms. Recognizing that OST provides a different, but important and compelling opportunity to present engineering challenges, the team began development of the EA program in 2010.
Members of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) were recently surveyed about afterschool programs in their schools, their involvement with the programs, and views on the role of afterschool science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. The survey results indicate that school-day staff are highly involved in afterschool STEM and clearly believe the afterschool space can support students’ learning within school hours.
Close to 8 in 10 survey respondents identified as educators; the remaining worked as administrators (6%) or played other professional roles (15%). Respondents taught multiple subjects in their schools; most teach science (93%), and smaller numbers teach math (26%), technology (19%) and engineering (15%).
Approximately three-fourths of respondents have an afterschool program at their school, and 78% of those include a STEM component. Of those respondents in schools who don't have afterschool STEM offerings, more than 9 in 10 believe they should.
For the subset of respondents whose schools have STEM afterschool programs, the programs are largely run by the school itself (68%). Other common providers are community organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, or Girls Inc. (15%); for-profit organizations (14%); universities or colleges (11%); and informal science education organizations like science centers or zoos (11%).
About 8 in 10 respondents participate in their school’s afterschool STEM programs. Of these, 85.1% are lead teachers and 14.9% are assistant instructors. Assistant instructors co-teach with other STEM teachers, community and parent volunteers, and local STEM professionals. Others who are not teaching or assisting in the classroom sometimes serve in a leadership role, such as a director or coordinator, and may also be involved in content development and instructor training.
We are kicking off the New Year with a new feature on our Afterschool Storybook—profiles of STEM afterschool programs. Examples and models of successful programs are often requested by the STEM afterschool field. The Afterschool Storybook tells the stories of people and communities transformed by afterschool programs as well as the staff, volunteers and participants who believe in the importance of out-of-school time. We hope that by providing profiles of high-quality afterschool STEM programs, we can offer the field a valuable resource. The STEM in Afterschool page features STEM-specific entries that can be sorted by program profiles, participants and professionals volunteering in afterschool programs.
Our first profile is from Girlstart in Austin, TX, an organization known for providing robust, award-winning out-of-school time programs for girls. The goal of each profile is to highlight the unique features of the program. Girlstart, for example, has a unique partnership to staff their programs with talented leaders and offer wrap-around services to engage parents. Profiles also report evaluation data and outcomes, and the funding sources behind these successful programs. Staff members personally answer questions about challenges the program has faced and offer advice for success.
Every month we’ll add a new program profile, so make sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest updates. We look to add programs that have a demonstrated history of success and a unique approach to providing STEM education in their communities. If you know of a high-quality afterschool STEM program with the potential to be featured in the Afterschool Storybook, please contact Melissa Ballard at email@example.com.