Getting started with STEM

Free resources to support your afterschool STEM program!

Getting started with afterschool STEM can be intimidating. Explore some of the best references, assessment tools, curricula, and other resources specifically developed for the out-of-school-time environment.

General Resources

Afterschool Alliance Webinars are a great resource for learning about pressing issues in the afterschool field. We’ve done several STEM-focused webinars—topics include Next Generation Science Standards, strengthening partnerships, gender equity, and "making" in afterschool. Browse the archive for a full list.

STEM After School: How to Design and Run Great Program Activities Guidebook contains information, ideas and resources to increase student engagement in science-related afterschool programs. The guidebook provides a general framework to help you create and maintain a high-quality program.

FUSE’s Resource Guide from Every Hour Counts outlines promising strategies to advance STEM learning in the hours after school. The guide includes profiles of promising city- and county-wide initiatives to bring STEM education to scale. It also takes a look into what’s next for the informal STEM field so that practitioners can plan with the future in mind.

The STEM in Afterschool System-Building Toolkit describes the state-level work being done to support STEM in afterschool, culled from the experiences of the Mott-funded Statewide Afterschool Networks. The toolkit describes strategies and shares tools and resources to help build the supply and quality of informal science programming in afterschool and summer programs. It is meant to provide system builders at the city, state and local levels with a process framework, concrete strategies, examples and tools to inform their work. is a one-stop shop for the informal science community, including afterschool STEM programs, science centers and museums, zoos and aquariums, broadcast media, and other out-of-school-time science learning environments.  Browse project descriptions and evaluation reports from the National Science Foundation and other federally funded projects. You can also access hundreds of research and reference materials. All resources are sortable by “afterschool”!

Relating Research to Practice is a website containing short synopses of current peer-reviewed educational research, as well as synthesis papers on topics pressing to the field. The research briefs are written with the interests, needs and institutional settings of informal science educators in mind, who can then use them to inform discussion, reflection and practice. The Afterschool Alliance is a partner on this National Science Foundation-funded project, helping to better connect this resource to the afterschool field. Briefs are also indexed on

Assessment Tools

Evaluation and assessment are key to providing evidence of success and will help you make the case to funders, the media and the public about the positive impact that your STEM program is having on participants. Use these tools to measure your program's impact and outcomes.  

PEAR's Assessment Tools in Informal Science is a searchable database of assessment tools for evaluating program quality and outcomes.

Assessing Women and Men in Engineering Project is a set of surveys and assessment tools you can use to evaluate your afterschool STEM program.

National Science Foundation's Framework for Evaluating Impacts of Informal Science Education Projects provides guidance on selecting methods to evaluate informal science programs. The guide is written for those applying for NSF funding, but is useful for anyone developing an evaluation plan.

General Prof. Development

Click2SciencePD is an online professional development resource for out-of-school-time providers. It focuses on 20 research-based skills for facilitating STEM and provides video-based learning modules. The site also offers guides for staff training, meetings and coaching pieces to further opportunities for professional development. 

PBS Zoom Sci Training is an interactive website that teaches professional STEM mentors how to lead engaging science activities for kids ages 8 to 11.

SEDL’s Instructor’s Guide to the Afterschool Training Toolkit gives afterschool instructors the resources they need to build fun, innovative and academically enriching activities that engage students, extend their knowledge in new ways, and support academic achievement. The website provides three separate afterschool guides for math, technology and science with resources including lesson plans for program enrichment.

You for Youth provides online training and technical assistance for 21st CCLC practitioners. The website has a “Tools” component that is specifically designed to educate staff on STEM programming. There are also numerous resources for STEM education in the afterschool setting, including “Trainings to Go,” a series of hour-long trainings that consist of a PowerPoint presentation, handouts and training guides to help customize professional development plans, and “Training Starters,” which are tips to help you create training sessions on particular STEM topics. Lastly, there are customizable tools to help afterschool providers plan, implement and assess STEM programming.

Training for Mentors & Role Models

Techbridge’s Role Models Toolkit is a free, online interactive toolkit to help potential mentors and role models develop skills to engage girls and underrepresented youth in STEM.  It provides 10 mini-lessons for role models to help plan, structure and implement their visit with students.

Curriculum & Activities

4-H curriculum is designed to be the sum total of all intentional learning experiences. The STEM/Science component includes lesson plans on aerospace, food science, computer, science discovery, geospatial, small engines, electric, robotics and wind energy.

Curiosity Machine is an online database of engineering design challenges that also connects kids to an online community of mentors. Check out their guide to getting started, along with suggested curriculum pathways. Curiosity Machine is a project of Iridescent.

Design Squad is a popular PBS Kids show. This site includes hands-on challenges, concept animations and videos across multiple topics, teaching 9- to 12-year-olds about engineering design. Step-by-step instructions for challenges are available in both English and Spanish. This site also features online educator training in the design process, along with resources on training others in leading engineering activities.

Engineering Adventures and Engineering is Everywhere are free engineering curricula developed especially for out-of-school-time programs by the Museum of Science, Boston. The curricula units are aimed at grades 3-5 and middle school students. Activities engage students to solve real-world programs through the engineering design process.

Exploratorium AfterSchool Activities provides video demonstrations and lesson plans for engaging, hands-on science activities that can be done in a short amount of time at a low cost.  These projects can be done as part of a multi-day, multi-week curriculum for a particular area of science or can be used as one-time explorations for specific phenomena.

NASA Wavelength is a regularly-updated online collection of peer-reviewed Earth and space science resources for all grade levels and has resources specific to informal science environments.  Explore the NASA Education site as well for many exciting ways to bring space science into your afterschool or summer program!

National Partnerships for After School Science (NPASS)The Design It! and Explore It! curriculum series is intended for use in afterschool programs serving elementary-age students. Each series has 13 projects that contain multiple activities or challenges building upon a single design challenge or investigation. The curricula allow for the development of basic engineering principles (such as troubleshooting and optimization), exemplify the design process, and promote problem solving and creativity.

PBS Zoom lists low-cost, easy to run science-related activities called ZoomSci, which includes activities in chemistry, engineering, and forces and energy.

Plum Landing is an environmental science initiative from WGBH Boston that helps kids develop a love for and a connection to Earth. Curriculum pathways are designed especially for afterschool programs and summer camps. Each pathway provides a set of activities and media resources arranged in a thematic sequence, aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.

Science After School Consumers Guide is a searchable database of high-quality, hands-on science curricula that have been reviewed by content experts and afterschool providers. Materials include semester- and year-long curricula, activity kits, instructor guides consisting of related activities and websites that offer content appropriate for afterschool programs.

SMILE: A collection of learning activities, tools and services designed especially for those who teach school-aged children in non-classroom settings (like museums, zoos, aquariums, and afterschool or outdoor education programs). SMILE is dedicated to bringing the STEM activities developed by informal science organizations around the country to the wider informal educator community, while encouraging that community to both use and contribute to SMILE's growing collection.

Techbridge curriculum is designed to interest kids in STEM, promote inquiry and highlight real-world applications so kids can see how STEM careers make the world a better place. It can be used with girls and boys in a variety of out-of-school-time settings, including afterschool programs, summer programs and youth groups.