By Ramya Sankar
The Afterschool Alliance participated in the 2nd USA Science and Engineering Festival held at the Washington Convention Center in D.C. this past weekend. My job was to plan our presence in the exhibit hall and organize afterschool programs to come show off what they do every day after school. I am happy to report it went extremely well and all of us had a great time talking to kids and parents and demonstrating the amazing STEM learning going on in afterschool programs around the country.
Youth from SHINE Afterschool Program in rural PA show off their Rube Goldberg machine to a festival attendee.
On Saturday, we had students from the SHINE After School Program in rural Pennsylvania come and show off their Rube Goldberg machine and solar cars they built from scratch—they even built the parts to make the cars. It was the first time some of these kids had left their county and it was a great experience for them as well as the visitors who got to see the innovative STEM programming happening in a small town in Pennsylvania. On Sunday, students from the Smart Steps Children's Center in Baltimore, MD, joined us with their string telephones and “Sink or Float” activity, which was a big hit. There was a lot going on at the convention center, from giant mechanical snakes to budding architects building towers out of wood planks! It was great being a part of all this energy and really rewarding to see young minds light up and ask questions. I had an opportunity to walk through the exhibit hall and all of the booths were filled with engaged kids and parents. There was something there for everyone from hurricane simulators to a real life game of angry birds.
|Youth from Smart Steps Children Centers Afterschool Program show festival attendees how to test the string telephones.|
After all was said and done, 150,000 people had attended the festival over the weekend. Clearly, the festival succeeded in exciting and engaging kids and parents in STEM and showing them that STEM is in their daily lives. The harder part is keeping them interested! I had a parent come up to say that there needs to be more such community activities to sustain her kids’ interest. Afterschool and summer programs are a great environment to do just that. They provide a safe environment for youth to explore and experiment and see to the existence and relevance of STEM in their own community and lives. As a vital part of many communities, afterschool programs can be that place for kids to stay engaged in STEM. This was a great event to get us pumped up for the Afterschool for All Challenge and we are looking forward to seeing everyone next week as we spread this message on Capitol Hill.
Search the Connectory to see where you might find afterschool STEM programs in your neighborhood.