This guest blog was contributed by Change the Equation, a CEO-led national coalition committed to improving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics learning through philanthropy, advocacy, and inspiration.
As the Afterschool Snack audience knows, what happens after 3 p.m. can have just as much of an impact in a child’s education as what happens during the formal school day. But in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), only 1 out of every 5 K-12 students gets the chance to engage in these subjects through afterschool programming. This alarming finding formed the foundation of Lost Opportunity, a new report from Change the Equation (CTEq) looking at how this statistic breaks down for kids across America. The report sparked an engaging discussion on July 12 on what this means and how to move STEM out-of-school programming forward from here.
CTEq, a CEO-led initiative that is mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM learning, partnered with Nielsen Research to survey American families and find out just how they’re engaging in STEM learning once the school day ends. After all, as theAfterschool Alliance showed, many parents would get their children involved in afterschool programming if the opportunity was available to them.
But what we discovered is that overall, only 19 percent of households report participating in afterschool STEM programming. For high schoolers and elementary-school students, the numbers are even lower: 85 percent of kids either don’t have access to or don’t participate in these programs at those ages. Children in rural areas are less likely to participate than children in urban or suburban areas. African-American and Asian students are more likely to participate, while white students are least likely.
So what can we do? There’s no one answer—the discrepancies across background and region make that impossible. Right now we can focus on promoting current programming already out there for kids and families. Initiatives like Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds can help parents and families search for a nearby program that matches their needs, upping the likelihood the student will stick with the activity and become more interested in STEM.
But beyond that we also need to work on creating programs in communities that have few or no opportunities to have fun with math and science. Even students who are considered proficient in math and science are often just not interested in the fields as a career, and interactive, hands-on programming after school could easily help re-ignite interest. As the adults in the room, it’s also important that we find ways to evaluate programs, ensuring that they’re delivering quality instruction to students as well.
The discussion after the panel—featuring Afterschool Alliance’s own Jen Rinehart and Martin Storksdieck of the National Research Council—offered plenty of ideas on how best to move forward from here. Watch the video, and let us know what you think—is there a great STEM-focused afterschool program in your area? If there isn’t, what would you want one to look like? STEM jobs are going to be a big part of our economy moving forward, and it’s important we start engaging kids now so they’re ready down the road.