Are you interested in collaborations that bridge out-of-school and in-school STEM learning? Check out the new peer-reviewed online journal, Connected Science Learning, a project from the National Science Teachers Association and the Association of Science-Technology Centers.
Connected Science Learning is a useful tool for educators and policy makers, as it highlights effective models of schools and teachers working together with afterschool and summer programs, along with informal science education instituations such as science centers, zoos, and museums. Each issue of Connected Science Learning features articles in four categories: “Research to Practice, Practice to Research,” “Diversity and Equity,” “Emerging Connections,” and “Connected Science Learning Briefs.” The recently-released second issue focuses on professional development.
Check out a few of our favorite articles from the first two issues.
New evaluation data from a school-university-afterschool partnership: Science Club, a partnership between Northwestern University, Chicago Public School teachers, and the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago, uses long-term mentoring relationships to engage low-income urban youth in science. We’ve profiled Science Club before, and they even won our 2014 Afterschool STEM Impact Award!
In the first issue of Connected Science Learning, they reveal impressive evaluation data showing that students that participated in Science Club improved their science fair project grades across the board. Read more about Science Club in issue one of Connected Science Learning.
An explainer on STEM learning ecologies: You may have heard the phrases “STEM learning ecosystem” or “ecology of learning.” This article parses out exactly what that means, and how connected learning can assist in accomplishing the same goals. Through the framework of STEM learning ecologies, we understand that learning takes place in all environments (school, home, afterschool, and more), all of the time, and is influenced by the people and the opportunities surrounding a student. Connected learning refers to effective and intentional ways of connecting students to external resources, and in turn expanding a student’s learning ecology. Read more about how these two concepts are linked in issue one of Connected Science Learning.
Supporting girls in career and technical education with SciGirls: In an initiative to increase the number of girls in STEM career pathways, SciGirls, a PBS media education initiative, is working on a new project that provides teachers with professional development in career and technical education (CTE), gender-equitable teaching strategies, and trainings on the importance of female STEM role models. The course emphasizes their original “SciGirls Seven,” which provides concrete, research-based strategies to engage girls in STEM.
Over the next two years, SciGirls Strategies will train 48 more teachers and reach more than 400 girls in Twin Cities-area schools. For afterschool providers interested in the CTE space, the findings are likely to be applicable. Read more about SciGirls Strategies and the research that they are conducting in issue two of Connected Science Learning.
GENIAL, Generating Engagement and New Initiatives for All Latinos, is a new National Science Foundation project focusing on increasing Latino participation in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) within informal or out-of-school time environments. The goal is to bring together practitioners, community leaders, diversity-focused organizations, researchers, and media/marketing specialists from across the country to identify field-wide best practices, opportunities, emerging research questions, and gaps.
If you're passionate about engaging Latinos in out-of-school STEM, apply by Tuesday, February 28 to attend a two-day summit on June 5 and 6, 2017 at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, Calif. Participants will hear from dynamic keynote speakers and engage in conversations, panel discussions, breakout sessions, and networking to contribute knowledge and experience that will inform future research and practice in and advancement of the field.
Goals of the summit
- Assess the current state of the field in providing effective informal STEM experiences for Latinos
- Identify needs and gaps in informal STEM environments
- Identify emerging research questions with an outlook toward the future
- Contribute to a more informed informal STEM field
Who should apply?
GENIAL is seeking professionals with diverse perspectives of and experiences with engaging Latino communities in STEM learning. Leaders of community-based organizations, including afterschool and summer learning programs; cultural organization practitioners; researchers; policy-makers; and media, marketing, and technology professionals who:
- Have at least two years’ experience and are currently employed in the United States in informal learning, nonprofit media or community-based organizations that serve Latino and/or other diverse and underserved communities
- Are involved in and/or interested in applying best practices to engaging Latino audiences in informal learning environments
- Are committed to sharing and implementing ideas from the GENIAL summit with colleagues and providing feedback
The cost for the two-day summit is $250. Selected applicants will receive a stipend ranging from partial to full coverage of travel expenses and the registration fee.
Submit this quick application by midnight PST on Tuesday, February 28, 2017.
Program participants will use coding to explore and create art, storytelling, robotics, video games, websites, and apps. Participants will also visit tech companies and gain an understanding of STEM careers by meeting female engineers and entrepreneurs. If you have female students who are interested in coding or STEM, encourage them to apply! Applications are due March 17th, and additional stipends are available to cover living expenses and transportation to support students who qualify.
Girls Who Code will be hosting 18 Summer Immersion Programs in the following cities:
- Atlanta, Ga.
- Austin, Texas
- Boston, Mass.
- Chicago, Ill.
- Los Angeles, Calif.
- Miami, Fla.
- Newark, N.J.
- New York City, N.Y.
- San Francisco Bay Area, Calif.
- Seattle, Wash.
- Stamford, Conn.
- Washington, D.C.
In a surprise move, Congress sent the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (formerly called America COMPETES) to the President for his signature late last week. The legislation authorizes research investments and the STEM education investments of various science mission agencies such as NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Energy.
The Afterschool Alliance has worked for several years to ensure that language supportive of afterschool is included in this bill as we recognize the importance of building bridges between STEM professionals and the afterschool field. We are delighted to report that the final bill includes several provisions that recognize the importance of out-of-school learning for STEM.
Of specific interest is Title III, the section on STEM education, and the following items in that title.
In the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program, there is a discussion of innovative practices in STEM teacher recruitment and retention. This includes partnering with nonprofit or professional associations to provide the fellowship’s recipients with opportunities for professional development, as well as conducting pilot programs to improve teacher service and retention.
What it means for afterschool: This may provide an opening for afterschool providers to collaborate with schools of teacher education in innovative ways, including practicum placements for student teachers in afterschool STEM programs.
A STEM education advisory panel is to be set up jointly by the Secretary of Education, the Director of NSF, the NASA Administrator and the Administrator of NOAA to advise the National Science and Technology Council’s Committee on STEM Education (CoSTEM).
This panel is required to have at least 11 members and include individuals from academic institutions, industry, and nonprofit organizations, including in-school, out-of-school, and informal education practitioners. The group will guide CoSTEM on “various aspects of federal investment in STEM education including ways to better vertically and horizontally integrate Federal STEM education programs and activities from pre-kindergarten through graduate study and the workforce, and from in-school to out-of-school in order to improve transitions for students moving through the STEM education and workforce pipelines.”
What it means for afterschool: This provides an opening for afterschool advocates to nominate experts in informal STEM education who understand afterschool STEM programming deeply. This perspective would be valuable and influential on the STEM education advisory panel.
In celebration of Computer Science Education Week, we’re proud to release our new report, “Growing computer science education in afterschool: Opportunities and challenges.” A diverse group of stakeholders—including educators, business and industry, policy makers, and parents—agree that computer science education is vital for kids to become the creators and innovators for the next generation, making technology work for them and designing solutions for their communities.
In the report, we asked the afterschool field what they thought about computer science education. They responded with overwhelming interest: 59 percent of our survey respondents were either offering computing to their students at the time of the survey or had offered it in the past, with the majority saying they were highly likely to offer it again. Among the programs that had never offered computing education before (40 percent of respondents), 89 percent indicated a high or medium level of interest in trying it out.
Despite this strong interest, afterschool providers indicated some big challenges to offering computer science to their students, especially finding qualified educators to teach it, securing funding, and accessing necessary technology. To address these common challenges, as well as other issues mentioned in our focus groups, our report offers nine recommendations for K-12 computer science education stakeholders:
For afterschool leaders and practitioners:
- Document promising practices.
- Share existing resources more broadly.
- Support individual afterschool programs’ capacity for partnerships.
For computer science education experts:
- Conduct targeted outreach to the afterschool field to educate them on computing.
- Increase professional development opportunities for out-of-school time educators.
- Develop engaging curricula designed for the afterschool environment.
For industry partners and grantmakers:
- Engage and invest in meaningful partnerships with afterschool providers.
- Support training for employee volunteers.
- Provide and promote a diverse array of funding opportunities.
For more details on our recommendations, and how you can implement them, download the full report!
We hope that our findings will help K-12 computer science education stakeholders support the growth of quality, sustainable computing education within the afterschool field. Read the full report today, and be sure to forward it to your friends and colleagues.
Afterschool programs support students’ success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in a multitude of ways—by helping them become interested and engaged, develop tangible STEM skills, and begin to see themselves as potential contributors to the STEM enterprise. While afterschool programs across the country are working hard to measure the impact they’re having on youth, we know that program evaluation is no small task—requiring a professional evaluator, getting staff on board, and ensuring student and parent participation.
Our new report “The impact of afterschool STEM: Examples from the field” compiles some of the most telling studies on how afterschool STEM programs are engaging students. Fifteen afterschool programs—diverse in size, structure, and approach—shared their evaluation data with us, thereby adding to the growing evidence that afterschool programs are crucial partners in bolstering student success in STEM education.
Here's a sample of the impacts you can read about in the report:
- After participation in Girlstart, a Texas afterschool program, girls perform better on the state science and math tests compared to non-participants. Further, participants demonstrate a continued interest in STEM—Girlstart girls enroll in advanced 6th and 7th grade science and math courses at significantly higher rates than non-participants and 89 percent want to return to Girlstart After School in the next school year.
- Youth members of The Clubhouse Network (pictured) report that they have learned how to use more technology (91 percent), are more confident using technology (88 percent), and use technology more often (84 percent) as a result of their Clubhouse experience. Almost 90 percent of youth in the Clubhouse’s Start Making! initiative felt they were better at solving hard problems, and had more skills to design, make or create projects.
- After participating in Explore the Bay, an environmental and marine science afterschool program, 81 percent of students said that they were really interested in learning about plants and animals and 89 percent of students surveyed reported that they wanted to take better care of their environment.
To read more impacts of afterschool STEM, read the full report.
This December 5-11, join the Afterschool Alliance in celebrating the importance of computer science education for all kids for the 2016 Computer Science Education Week. Planning an Hour of Code with your students and participating in our tweet chat is a great way to start!
Plan an Hour of Code
Interested in getting your students started with computer science and coding? The Hour of Code is designed as an easy introduction to the topic for students and staff, as well as an opportunity to drum up support for computer science initiatives among community partners and stakeholders. Last year, almost 4,000 afterschool programs across the country hosted Hour of Code events—let’s keep growing our numbers!
Get involved in two simple steps:
Just announced for 2016 Hour of Code is the addition of an all-new Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a tutorial which lets students code their own Minecraft rules to create a totally unique Minecraft experience, and then share it with friends or play it on their phones!
Mark your calendar for our tweet chat
On Wednesday, December 7, at 2pm EDT, we’re teaming up with the National AfterSchool Association to dig into the challenges and opportunities around computer science for afterschool programs. We’ll have a focus on professional development needs for staff to successfully facilitate computer science and coding. Stay tuned for more info! In the meantime, follow @afterschool4all on Twitter and subscribe to our blog, the Afterschool Snack.
The Afterschool Alliance is delighted to announce a new partnership with the Overdeck Family Foundation to advance afterschool STEM policy. We will be working with the statewide afterschool networks to achieve this goal, as many networks are already engaged in advancing afterschool STEM learning opportunities in their states. This new project will help us amplify our support to the state afterschool networks so they can advocate for a strong role for afterschool programs in their state’s ESSA implementation plans.
The Overdeck partnership also allows us to support a smaller subset of statewide afterschool networks to deepen their work on advancing policies to support afterschool STEM programming via state level initiatives. We are thrilled to announce that we made awards to the following organizations for this initiative:
- Iowa Afterschool Alliance
- Vermont Afterschool, Inc.
- Maryland Out of School Time Network
- Utah Afterschool Network
- Pennsylvania Statewide Afterschool/Youth Development Network (PSAYDN)
These six state networks demonstrated that the policy environment in their states is conducive for advancing afterschool STEM. We are partnering with the STEM Education Coalition, an influential national advocacy group for STEM education, to provide technical assistance to the statewide afterschool networks for this project. Through this collaboration, we will be providing regular STEM policy updates to the networks and working with them to provide tailored resources, such as the recent set of advocacy resources for afterschool/informal STEM. We will also broker partnerships between the Coalition’s members and state afterschool advocates, an often stated need of the networks. We are anticipating that these new partnerships will bring new influential STEM allies and voices into the afterschool conversation.
We are excited about this project and look forward to supporting the afterschool field with strong policies that will provide young people with greater access to high-quality afterschool STEM programming.