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STEM Snacks
MAY
22
2017

STEM
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Guest blog: Engaging families using the 5Rs

By Guest Blogger

By Margaret Caspe and M. Elena Lopez of the Global Family Research Project. Global Family Research Project is pleased to share tips on tapping into students’ greatest resources - their families. Please feel free to use the visual on the 5Rs in your own materials and outreach.

A second grader named David, his parents, and his baby sister walk into a library and are transported into space.

No, it’s not the plot for a new edition of the Magic Tree House.

It’s STAR_Net—a project that supports libraries in providing hands-on, interactive science and technology learning experiences for their communities. Here’s what happened:  

David’s afterschool instructor reached out to invite families to a local library event on a Saturday afternoon after parents expressed interest in enrolling their children in programs focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). On the day of the event, librarians and afterschool instructors talked with the families about their knowledge of particular space and STEM concepts. David and his dad built a model solar system and his parents were able to connect to other families by competing in a quiz show game. In essence, the library and afterschool program worked together to reimagine how afterschool programs provide learning opportunities that involve families in meaningful ways.

These processes—reaching out to families, raising up their interests, reinforcing their knowledge, allowing them to relate to each other, and reimagining services and programs—are important ways that afterschool programs and libraries can jointly enage families in children’s learning. At Global Famiy Research Project, we call these the 5Rs. When afterschool and library leaders convey the value of family engagement and support a climate of innovation with the 5Rs, it becomes possible to design exciting learning experiences for the whole family.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science
APR
10
2017

STEM
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Guest blog: Trump budget would devastate afterschool STEM

By Guest Blogger

By Ron Ottinger, the director of STEM Next, co-chair of the national STEM Funders Network, and the former executive director of the Noyce Foundation. Known as a leader and expert in STEM learning, Ron has spent the last nine years guiding the Noyce foundations initiatives in informal and out-of-school-time science. With STEM Next, Ron continues to work toward increasing STEM learning opportunities for youth nationally.

This blog was reposted with permission from STEM Next.  

President Trump’s proposed budget cuts to afterschool programs would deny millions of American youth the opportunity to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning; inhibit the development of the nation’s future scientists, engineers, inventors, and business leaders; and cut young people off from building the skills they need to advance in school, work, citizenship, and life.

If enacted by Congress, the President’s budget would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, the single largest source of funding for afterschool and summer programs that enroll 1.6 million students across rural, urban, and suburban communities in all 50 states.

Afterschool and summer programs provide essential learning opportunities for young people. This is particularly true when it comes to STEM learning – a national priority.

And afterschool programs have the support of an overwhelming number of Americans: a recent Quinnipiac poll found 83% are opposed to cuts in afterschool funding.

The Administration has said there is no evidence that these programs are effective. That is simply not true.

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learn more about: Federal Funding Guest Blog
MAR
20
2017

STEM
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An anti-education, anti-science budget proposal

By Anita Krishnamurthi

Photo by Gage Skidmore.

As expected, President Trump’s long-awaited “skinny budget” contained deep cuts to domestic discretionary spending. Particularly disappointing to those of us in the afterschool STEM education community are the outright eliminations of the programs that help young people develop science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills, literacy and proficiency—the currency needed to be hired in our modern world.

The elephant in the room

Let’s start with the biggest concern: the budget proposes to eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) initiative, the sole federal funding source exclusively for afterschool. This program provides 1.6 million kids with innovative learning spaces after school.

Nearly 70 percent of parents with kids enrolled in afterschool programs report that their children receive some form of STEM learning opportunity in this setting. Not only that, 70 percent of all parents believe that afterschool programs should offer STEM activities and programming.

Don’t cut what works

Despite claims to the contrary, a great deal of widely available research illustrates the impact of afterschool programs, and substantial evidence documents STEM-specific outcomes. A recent multi-state study found that afterschool STEM programs are helping to close America’s skills gap. STEM Ready America, a recently-released compendium of articles from 40 experts, presents compelling evidence of the impact of afterschool STEM.

The Afterschool Alliance has long tracked outcomes and best practices in afterschool STEM programming, including a recent paper on the impacts of afterschool STEM. Our Afterschool Impacts Database offers a searchable, user-friendly collection of impacts data, and our STEM program profiles share examples of innovative afterschool STEM programs.

Additional proposed cuts in key areas for afterschool STEM

Collaboration between school and afterschool. The budget proposal does not mention the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants program, the new Title IV Part A block grant program authorized under ESSA that focuses heavily on STEM education, including in afterschool. This likely implies that no funding is sought for this program.

This is a huge disappointment. The activities authorized under this grant specifically supported well-rounded learning activities with a strong emphasis on STEM education and encouraged collaboration among personnel in schools, afterschool programs, and informal programs to better integrate programming and instruction in STEM subjects.

Professional development. The budget also eliminates the $2.4 billion Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants program (Title II of ESSA), which supports teacher professional development. The loss is a blow to afterschool STEM because these funds offer a way to support joint professional development and collaborations between in-school and out-of-school educators.

Programs. In addition to drastic cuts at the Department of Education, the proposal eliminates the $115 million budget for NASA’s Office of Education. This amounts to just 0.5 percent of NASA’s overall budget and less than 0.003 percent of the federal budget.

MAR
3
2017

STEM
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Afterschool's role in preparing a STEM Ready America

By Anita Krishnamurthi

Afterschool STEM programming shone brightly under the spotlight this week with the release of a research study on outcomes and a compendium of articles presenting research and examples of effective afterschool STEM programming.

STEM Next at the University of San Diego (carrying on the work of the Noyce Foundation) and the Mott Foundation partnered to host an event at the National Press Club on March 1 celebrating afterschool STEM programming and its role in preparing young people for the workforce. Dr. Sylvester James Gates Jr., an extremely distinguished scientist and professor at the University of Maryland gave the keynote address. Dr. Gates was also on President Obama's Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, where he played a key role in advocating for STEM education.  It was in this latter capacity that Dr. Gates discussed his belief in the value of informal and afterschool STEM learning, recognizing that drawing young people into STEM fields is often more of an emotional issue than an intellectual one.

This last point is a special strength of afterschool programs, evident in the findings from an 11-state study conducted by Dr. Gil Noam and his team at Harvard’s PEAR Institute and Dr. Todd Little and his team at Texas Tech University’s Institute for Measurement, Methodology, Analysis, and Policy (IMMAP).  They gathered and analyzed outcomes reported by 1600 students and nearly 150 facilitators in 160 afterschool programs. The data show that afterschool STEM programs substantially increase young people’s interest in STEM fields and STEM careers and can also help students to think of themselves as capable of doing science.  You can read more about these findings.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Science
MAR
1
2017

STEM
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New research: afterschool STEM helps close America's skills gap

By Rachel Clark

21st century skills like critical thinking and perseverance are in high demand in today’s workforce—but executives report a severe gap between the skills they need and the skills workers have. New findings from the Afterschool & STEM System Building Evaluation 2016, previewed today at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., demonstrate that afterschool programs play a vital role in closing the gap by helping students develop the skills to succeed in school, work, and life.

Supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and STEM Next, the study surfaced several key findings that illustrate the potential for afterschool to prepare students for future success:

  • 72 percent of students reported an increase in their perseverance and critical thinking skills
  • 73 percent reported an increase in their personal belief that they can succeed at science
  • 78 percent reported a positive change in their interest in science
  • 80 percent reported a positive gain in their science career knowledge

Check out findings from the study in the new “STEM Ready America” compendium, alongside articles from 40 experts and thought leaders in the out-of-school time and STEM learning spaces—and stay tuned for the release of the full study later this month.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Science
FEB
21
2017

STEM
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3 must-read articles from Connected Science Learning

By Leah Silverberg

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.

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learn more about: Science Community Partners
FEB
13
2017

STEM
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Apply for a two-day summit on engaging Latinos in STEM

By Melissa Ballard

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

Cost

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.

To apply

Submit this quick application by midnight PST on Tuesday, February 28, 2017.

Questions?

Email GENIAL@exploratorium.edu.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Science
FEB
6
2017

STEM
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Encourage your high school girls to code this summer!

By Leah Silverberg

Girls Who Code has opened applications for their 2017 Summer Immersion Program. This 7-week program for 10th- and 11th-grade girls is FREE and requires no previous coding experience!

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.
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