“Do good stuff and make sure people know about it.” That was the succinct advice offered by Martin Storksdieck, director of the Board on Science Education at the National Research Council, in the morning session he led, Defining Impacts and Outcomes of STEM Learning in Afterschool, on Day One of the Afterschool for All Challenge.
The fact that the afterschool and informal learning community “has difficulty communicating its impact” doesn’t change the fact that “numbers are needed,” Storksdieck said. “If you don’t define yourself and your impact, others will do it for you.”
The session, convened by Anita Krishnamurthi, director of STEM policy for the Afterschool Alliance, drew a roomful of attendees eager for ideas about how to measure their programs’ accomplishments. “Getting kids inspired and engaged is something we do well,” Krishnamurthi said, “but we’re hearing that it’s not enough.”
Friday, May 18, is a key date for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) efforts, Storksdieck said, with the release of the first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards. “Getting a sense of what students will experience in science is important,” he said, adding that new standards are “driven by wanting students to learn and experience science in the same way that science is actually practiced”—a philosophy that afterschool practitioners need to keep in mind as they consider program design and outcomes.
Several themes emerged as Storksdieck solicited questions and comments from the audience:
State STEM Vital Signs published by Change the Equation and information on grantwriting and evaluations at InformalScience.org were mentioned as valuable online resources for programs grappling with outcomes, and Storksdieck challenged STEM programs to “make the case” for their relevance “once and for all. Come together on a research project that shows the impact of engagement beyond the ‘ooh, ahh’ effect.”
A Day at the Museum
After lunch, the STEM conversation continued in the session Building Bridges and Forming Partnerships with Science Centers and Museums. Laura Huerta Migus, director of equity and diversity for the Association of Science-Technology Centers, moderated a panel discussion featuring Preeti Gupta, director of youth learning and research for the American Museum of Natural History; John Jewitt, a librarian with Maryland’s Howard County Library System; and Carol Tang, director of the Coalition for Science After School.
“Afterschool providers have skills that are different from museum staff members,” said Tang. “They can learn from each other. Museums are empty after school. They have facilities that are underutilized at a time when you have kids in a program.”
Libraries, on the other hand, are exceptionally busy after school, Jewitt said. But that doesn’t mean they’re not in a position to offer support as they “move beyond building collections and emphasize how to connect people to collections and information.” Many systems such as Howard County can provide librarians who will meet with afterschool providers at their program sites to discuss available resources and strategize on how to best engage students, he added.
The panelists emphasized that the key to tapping into the potential of science centers, museums and libraries—getting access to space, programs and content experts, often at low or no cost—is simply reaching out: making calls until you connect with the right person and identify a partnership opportunity that works for both of you. They also stressed the importance of persistence—building relationships can take time but have great payoffs in the end.
This story originally appeared in the Afterschool Advocate (Vol. 13, Issue 5).
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