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Snacks by Ramya Sankar
SEP
14
2012

STEM
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Full STEAM Ahead: Integrating STEM and Art

By Ramya Sankar

This post was written by our summer intern Teresa Kroeger.  She is a senior at the University of California, Santa Cruz. 
 
On September 12, Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) hosted a panel discussion entitled “FULL STEAM AHEAD: Critical Connections among STEM, the Arts, Literacy and Early Learning.”  The discussion centered on the integration of the arts and STEM learning (science, technology, engineering and math).Contrary to popular belief, science and the arts are not mutually exclusive.  Reading and writing are tools for the acquisition of knowledge and the inquiry of science, just as science can be used as a context for learning to read and write. Science sharpens writing and oral skills, which are essential tools for a career in STEM subjects.
 
Art and science also share common purposes: they both seek to develop insight into and knowledge of the world around us, as well as challenge us to think about things in new and different ways.  It appears science and art are not so different, after all.
 
Kids can learn about science while they learn to read.  RIF seeks to bring the spark of imagination to the arts and STEM subjects.  In partnership with Macy’s, RIF has selected 40 children’s books centered on STEM topics for their 2012-2013 Multicultural Book Collection
MAY
3
2012

STEM
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Afterschool Programs Participate in USA Science and Engineering Festival

By Ramya Sankar

The Afterschool Alliance participated in the 2nd USA Science and Engineering Festival held at the Washington Convention Center in D.C. this past weekend.  My job was to plan our presence in the exhibit hall and organize afterschool programs to come show off what they do every day after school.  I am happy to report it went extremely well and all of us had a great time talking to kids and parents and demonstrating the amazing STEM learning going on in afterschool programs around the country.

Youth from SHINE Afterschool Program in rural PA show off their Rube Goldberg machine to a festival attendee.

On Saturday, we had students from the SHINE After School Program in rural Pennsylvania come and show off their Rube Goldberg machine and solar cars they built from scratch—they even built the parts to make the cars.  It was the first time some of these kids had left their county and it was a great experience for them as well as the visitors who got to see the innovative STEM programming happening in a small town in Pennsylvania.  On Sunday,  students from the Smart Steps Children's Center in Baltimore, MD, joined us with their string telephones and “Sink or Float” activity, which was a big hit. There was a lot going on at the convention center, from giant mechanical snakes to budding architects building towers out of wood planks! It was great being a part of all this energy and really rewarding to see young minds light up and ask questions.  I had an opportunity to walk through the exhibit hall and all of the booths were filled with engaged kids and parents.  There was something there for everyone from hurricane simulators to a real life game of angry birds.  

MAR
16
2012

STEM
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'Wouldn't It Be COOL If...' You Could Change the World After School?

By Ramya Sankar

Afterschool for All Challenge registration has opened and to kick it off, in honor of last year’s National Afterschool Champion Dean Kamen, we’re issuing a challenge to all afterschool youth scientists to rep their afterschool programs and enter the new  "Wouldn't it Be Cool if..." contest to pitch their invention ideas to Dean Kamen and will.i.am. At last year's "Breakfast of Champions," Dean Kamen said our scientists should be treated like rockstars. Well, here’s your chance to hang out with one—and to tell him why he should help you change the world!

Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds has teamed up with i.am FIRST to get young inventors age 10-15 to put down on paper their ideas for inventions that can help "make life more awesome." Four finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of celebrity judges including will.i.am and 2011 National Afterschool Champion and founder of FIRST Robotics Dean Kamen.  The grand prize winner will then team up with a leading innovation firm to make their idea a reality. Finalists will be determined partly through public voting, so browse submissions in the idea gallery and vote for the ones you think are most awesome.

Know of a problem that needs fixing? Chances are STEM will help you on your way to solving it. Ask around and see who can help you with your idea. How about a scientist working in a lab, or an engineer designing new gadgets? Special guest experts will also be commenting on contest ideas in the idea gallery to help refine submissions.

There are two tracks for the contest, one for kids ages 10-12 and another for 13-15 year-olds. You can enter as a team or as an individual. The deadline for submissions is March 28 so get those creative juices flowing and submit your idea today!

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learn more about: Competition Engineering Technology
MAR
12
2012

STEM
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Our Newly Redesigned STEM Pages Here to Help You!

By Ramya Sankar

Over the past several months we have been working hard to give the STEM section of our website a new look and make it easier for you to connect with us and navigate our extensive resources and tools. We hope that the updated STEM website is more user-friendly and provides you with the information that you came to find.  Check it out!
 
Here’s what’s new:
  • Easier to find STEM-specific funding opportunities. In addition to our own extensive database, we’ve identified some of the best sources available and put them all in one place.

  • Revamped policy updates, including real-time bill tracking and ways to contact Members of Congress. 

  • Do you use STEM in your job?  We’ve laid out easy ways to get involved with local programs and share your passion and expertise with the next generation of STEM professionals. If you know of a great volunteer at your afterschool program please tell us about them to be included in our series by contacting rsankar@afterschoolalliance.org

  • A one-stop-shop resources guide.  Curriculum, assessment tools and partnership opportunities are now all in one spot. 

  • An interactive STEM calendar to help you keep track of what’s happening in the national STEM afterschool field.  Browse upcoming events, program opportunities and funding deadlines—even submit your own event to alert the field.

  • STEM professionals share firsthand their experiences volunteering with afterschool programs in our STEM Professionals in Afterschool series, a new feature of America’s Afterschool Storybook.

As in any good science or engineering project, the website is an ongoing process and we want to hear from you about what you like and how we can make it even more user-friendly. Leave us a comment below—we always welcome your feedback!

MAR
6
2012

STEM
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Afterschool in Action: STEM Programs Engage Girls With Projects and Female Role Models

By Ramya Sankar

The “Afterschool in Action” blog series is dedicated to highlighting cutting-edge afterschool and summer programs that embrace digital learning and STEM exploration. If you know a program doing great work in these areas, let us know! Contact rsankar@afterschoolalliance.org to recommend a program to be featured.

In honor of Women’s History Month, this week we are highlighting afterschool programs that are working hard to get young girls excited and engaged in STEM. While women are making great strides in education and the workforce, they are still lagging far behind men in STEM fields. Females make up only 11 percent of engineers in the workforce. The following programs are hoping to bridge the divide by exposing young girls to female STEM role models as well as all the creative ways they can engage in STEM learning.

  Photo courtesy of West End Middle School Art2STEM Program

Art2STEM- Located in Nashville, TN, Art2STEM hopes to promote STEM through the lens of art to attract more girls into STEM-focused high school academies in Nashville, TN. Through activities like creating animations and architectural design, the programming focuses on creativity and showing how the arts complement STEM fields. As part of Alignment Nashville’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant from NSF, the afterschool program exposes girls to various STEM topics through these hands-on activities as well as field trips to local tech businesses.

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learn more about: Engineering Math Science Technology
FEB
10
2012

STEM
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Afterschool Programs Show Off STEM Skills at the White House Science Fair

By Ramya Sankar

 

Members of The Flying Monkeys—a team of Girls Scouts from Ames, IA—presented their patent-pending prosthetic to President Obama at the White House Science Fair on Feb. 7, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

On Tuesday, President Obama held the second White House Science Fair as part of his commitment to encourage youth to explore and excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields.  The event convened winners of several STEM competitions from across the United States to the halls of the White House to showcase their projects.

More than 30 team projects representing more than 100 students were on display including a project by The Flying Monkeys, a team of Girl Scouts from Ames, Iowa.  The Flying Monkeys presented their patent-pending prosthetic that enables individuals to grip and hold items.  The team was inspired to design the prosthetic after learning about a young girl in Georgia who was born without fingers on her right hand.  The team did their research by visiting a prosthetics manufacturer and an occupational therapist prior to designing and building their prototype.  They entered their idea into FIRST Lego League’s Global Innovators Competition in which they competed against 179 teams from 16 countries to win $20,000 to develop their idea.

JAN
20
2012

STEM
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New Inventory of Federal STEM Education Investments as a Roadmap of Resource Gaps and Opportunities

By Ramya Sankar

The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) recently published an inventory of all federal spending on STEM education by agency.  This report was commissioned by the America COMPETES Act to help reduce redundancies and better invest federal dollars in STEM education.  The inventory was created by surveying federal agencies in 2010 about their investments in STEM education ranging from funding undergraduate students to informal community education initiatives.  The report outlined funding as a percentage of agency budget as well as each agency’s contribution to the federal STEM education spending total.

Breakdown of STEM investments within each federal agency

 

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learn more about: Federal Funding
DEC
14
2011

STEM
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Stage 1 Winners Announced for Lifelong Learning Digital Badge Competition

By Ramya Sankar

The Digital Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition announced its first round winners last week.  Stage One asked for entrants to propose programs, activities and content that would be appropriate for a digital badge system. The badge system will be a way for individuals to digitally display attainment of skills they have learned in one place online, similar to a resume.  This stage of the competition asked for proposals of content that would benefit from badges.  In all, 60 Stage One winners were chosen, representing a wide array of public and private organization—including afterschool programs—and topics ranging from digital literacy to learning in and out of the classroom.  Stage Two will seek design and technology proposals that respond to the content proposed by Stage One winners.  Winners from stages One and Two will then be paired to collaborate and develop the badge system in Stage Three.  The proposal included a system in which afterschool program participants can collect badges when they reach a youth learning goal, which include improved school attendance and behavior as well as improved grades.  Badges would also be awarded to programs for improving quality as well as system-level learning goals including better integration between PASA and the school district.  One of the unique elements of the proposal would allow youth to come up with branding for the badge system, integrating the work they did with and The HUB, the middle and high school afterschool initiatives, respectively.  The badge system will be created in hopes to retain students who participate in afterschool programs during middle school but drop off in high school.  The design of the badge system will make it replicable in other cities and networks of afterschool programs.

One of the Stage One winners included the Providence After School Alliance’s (PASA) Pathways for Lifelong Learning

The winning proposals are searchable by topic, including STEM projects as well as projects specific to out-of-school-time.

The deadline for Stage Two is Jan. 12, 2012.  Details can be found here. The third and final stage of the competition will take place at the end of February.

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learn more about: Competition Digital Learning Technology