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New report reveals state of afterschool STEM learning opportunities

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New report reveals state of afterschool STEM learning opportunities

Afterschool and summer programs offer hands-on learning opportunities that spark students’ interest in STEM subjects and help them gain critical STEM skills. The just-released America After 3PM special report, “STEM Learning in Afterschool on the Rise, But Barriers and Inequities Exist,” finds that afterschool programs are offering more STEM learning opportunities, but inequities exist and too many young people are missing out.

America After 3PM is the nation’s most comprehensive look at how children spend their time during the hours after school and during the summer. The 2020 survey findings provide important new insights into STEM learning in afterschool, and a first ever look at trends in afterschool STEM learning since the first special STEM report released in 2014.*

Top takeaways from our STEM report include:

1. Opportunities for STEM learning in afterschool programs have increased.

According to the America After 3PM survey, 73 percent of parents report that their child’s afterschool program offers STEM learning opportunities, an increase of four percentage points from 2014. Additionally, the frequency of STEM learning activities has increased, with 60 percent of parents reporting that their child participates in STEM activities twice a week or more—an increase of eight percentage points from 2014.

Follow-up surveys conducted during the pandemic found that nationwide, STEM learning opportunities in afterschool programs remained steady, and 72 percent of 2021 summer programs offered STEM learning opportunities.

2. Parents value STEM learning in afterschool and summer programs

Seventy-six percent of parents agree that STEM learning in afterschool helps children gain interest and skills related to STEM, an increase of 11 percentage points since 2014. Additionally, 72 percent of parents report that STEM and computer science learning opportunities are important when selecting their child’s afterschool program.

3. Afterschool programs reach populations traditionally underrepresented in STEM.

Women and people of color are underrepresented in STEM professions. Nationally, parents of Black and Latinx students report that their child’s afterschool program offers STEM learning at higher rates than parents of White students. Afterschool STEM learning opportunities for boys and girls have grown since 2014, but opportunities for boys are growing more quickly.  

 4. Too many children are missing out.

In America, for every child in an afterschool program, three are waiting to get in. While STEM learning is more available in afterschool programs than ever before, fewer students have opportunities to access these programs due to increased barriers. Parents report that cost and access top the list of the biggest barriers to afterschool program participation.

Young people in families with low incomes, young people in rural communities, and girls are the most likely to miss out on STEM learning opportunities in afterschool.

5. Parents support public funding for afterschool and summer programs.

Eighty-seven percent of U.S. parents support public funding for afterschool programs, and 88 percent of parents support public funding for summer learning opportunities. Public funding brings greater opportunities for students to explore hands-on STEM learning in their afterschool programs. 

Afterschool and summer STEM learning offer unique benefits and reach youth traditionally underrepresented in STEM, but millions are missing out. 

Check out the data dashboard to explore more state and nationwide data at aa3pm.co/STEM.

America After 3PM serves as a resource for policymakers, educators, parents, and advocates on afterschool and summer program participation, demand, and expectations and benefits of programs. 

*Data from America After 3PM survey of parents conducted during January through March 2020. 

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