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STEM Snacks
DEC
7
2016

STEM
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New report: Opportunities and challenges in afterschool computer science

By Melissa Ballard

In celebration of Computer Science Education Week, we’re proud to release our new report, “Growing computer science education in afterschool: Opportunities and challenges.” A diverse group of stakeholders—including educators, business and industry, policy makers, and parents—agree that computer science education is vital for kids to become the creators and innovators for the next generation, making technology work for them and designing solutions for their communities.

In the report, we asked the afterschool field what they thought about computer science education. They responded with overwhelming interest: 59 percent of our survey respondents were either offering computing to their students at the time of the survey or had offered it in the past, with the majority saying they were highly likely to offer it again. Among the programs that had never offered computing education before (40 percent of respondents), 89 percent indicated a high or medium level of interest in trying it out.

Despite this strong interest, afterschool providers indicated some big challenges to offering computer science to their students, especially finding qualified educators to teach it, securing funding, and accessing necessary technology. To address these common challenges, as well as other issues mentioned in our focus groups, our report offers nine recommendations for K-12 computer science education stakeholders:

For afterschool leaders and practitioners:

  1. Document promising practices.
  2. Share existing resources more broadly.
  3. Support individual afterschool programs’ capacity for partnerships. 

For computer science education experts:

  1. Conduct targeted outreach to the afterschool field to educate them on computing.
  2. Increase professional development opportunities for out-of-school time educators.
  3. Develop engaging curricula designed for the afterschool environment. 

For industry partners and grantmakers:

  1. Engage and invest in meaningful partnerships with afterschool providers.
  2. Support training for employee volunteers.
  3. Provide and promote a diverse array of funding opportunities.

For more details on our recommendations, and how you can implement them, download the full report!

We hope that our findings will help K-12 computer science education stakeholders support the growth of quality, sustainable computing education within the afterschool field. Read the full report today, and be sure to forward it to your friends and colleagues.

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learn more about: Digital Learning Science
NOV
30
2016

STEM
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New report: Documenting the impact of afterschool STEM

By Melissa Ballard

Afterschool programs support students’ success in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in a multitude of ways—by helping them become interested and engaged, develop tangible STEM skills, and begin to see themselves as potential contributors to the STEM enterprise. While afterschool programs across the country are working hard to measure the impact they’re having on youth, we know that program evaluation is no small task—requiring a professional evaluator, getting staff on board, and ensuring student and parent participation.

Our new report “The impact of afterschool STEM: Examples from the field” compiles some of the most telling studies on how afterschool STEM programs are engaging students. Fifteen afterschool programs—diverse in size, structure, and approach—shared their evaluation data with us, thereby adding to the growing evidence that afterschool programs are crucial partners in bolstering student success in STEM education.

Here's a sample of the impacts you can read about in the report:

  • After participation in Girlstart, a Texas afterschool program, girls perform better on the state science and math tests compared to non-participants. Further, participants demonstrate a continued interest in STEM—Girlstart girls enroll in advanced 6th and 7th grade science and math courses at significantly higher rates than non-participants and 89 percent want to return to Girlstart After School in the next school year.
  • Youth members of The Clubhouse Network (pictured) report that they have learned how to use more technology (91 percent), are more confident using technology (88 percent), and use technology more often (84 percent) as a result of their Clubhouse experience. Almost 90 percent of youth in the Clubhouse’s Start Making! initiative felt they were better at solving hard problems, and had more skills to design, make or create projects.
  • After participating in Explore the Bay, an environmental and marine science afterschool program, 81 percent of students said that they were really interested in learning about plants and animals and 89 percent of students surveyed reported that they wanted to take better care of their environment.

To read more impacts of afterschool STEM, read the full report.

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learn more about: Evaluations Science
NOV
21
2016

STEM
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What are you doing for Computer Science Education Week?

By Melissa Ballard

This December 5-11, join the Afterschool Alliance in celebrating the importance of computer science education for all kids for the 2016 Computer Science Education Week. Planning an Hour of Code with your students and participating in our tweet chat is a great way to start!

Plan an Hour of Code

Interested in getting your students started with computer science and coding? The Hour of Code is designed as an easy introduction to the topic for students and staff, as well as an opportunity to drum up support for computer science initiatives among community partners and stakeholders. Last year, almost 4,000 afterschool programs across the country hosted Hour of Code events—let’s keep growing our numbers!

Get involved in two simple steps:

  1. Get registered.
  2. Start planning with step-by-step instructions.

Just announced for 2016 Hour of Code is the addition of an all-new Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a tutorial which lets students code their own Minecraft rules to create a totally unique Minecraft experience, and then share it with friends or play it on their phones!

Mark your calendar for our tweet chat

On Wednesday, December 7, at 2pm EDT, we’re teaming up with the National AfterSchool Association to dig into the challenges and opportunities around computer science for afterschool programs. We’ll have a focus on professional development needs for staff to successfully facilitate computer science and coding. Stay tuned for more info! In the meantime, follow @afterschool4all on Twitter and subscribe to our blog, the Afterschool Snack.

NOV
7
2016

STEM
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New partnership will advance afterschool STEM policies

By Anita Krishnamurthi

The Afterschool Alliance is delighted to announce a new partnership with the Overdeck Family Foundation to advance afterschool STEM policy. We will be working with the statewide afterschool networks to achieve this goal, as many networks are already engaged in advancing afterschool STEM learning opportunities in their states. This new project will help us amplify our support to the state afterschool networks so they can advocate for a strong role for afterschool programs in their state’s ESSA implementation plans. 

The Overdeck partnership also allows us to support a smaller subset of statewide afterschool networks to deepen their work on advancing policies to support afterschool STEM programming via state level initiatives. We are thrilled to announce that we made awards to the following organizations for this initiative:

These six state networks demonstrated that the policy environment in their states is conducive for advancing afterschool STEM. We are partnering with the STEM Education Coalition, an influential national advocacy group for STEM education, to provide technical assistance to the statewide afterschool networks for this project. Through this collaboration, we will be providing regular STEM policy updates to the networks and working with them to provide tailored resources, such as the recent set of advocacy resources for afterschool/informal STEM. We will also broker partnerships between the Coalition’s members and state afterschool advocates, an often stated need of the networks. We are anticipating that these new partnerships will bring new influential STEM allies and voices into the afterschool conversation.

We are excited about this project and look forward to supporting the afterschool field with strong policies that will provide young people with greater access to high-quality afterschool STEM programming.

OCT
31
2016

STEM
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Learn to make the case for STEM learning with FrameWorks Institute

By Elizabeth Tish

Do you think afterschool programs are a great place to engage kids in learning about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)? Do you have trouble sometimes convincing others to share your enthusiasm for teaching kids STEM after school?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, the FrameWorks Institute has an online course for you. Making the Case for STEM Learning provides afterschool providers and professionals with the most comprehensive understanding of the Frameworks Institute's communications research on how the American public thinks about STEM education and out-of-school time learning. This research helps afterschool STEM advocates ensure they are using the most effective arguments when seeking to boost funding, support or participation for afterschool STEM programs. 

This course is accessible at no cost through March 2017, so go check it out today!

Looking for additional resources?

Visit the Afterschool STEM Hub to access talking points, PowerPoint slides, infographics, and more to help you tell a compelling story and inspire enthusiasm for STEM in afterschool. You can also view two additional FrameWorks Academy courses to dive deeper into strategies for telling thematic stories, or how to use social math to explain afterschool STEM. 

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learn more about: Advocacy Digital Learning Science
OCT
10
2016

STEM
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These three programs successfully integrated engineering education

By Erin Murphy

This blog was also published on LinkEngineering.

Students from SHINE with their homemade robot. Image via @amjohnston

Afterschool programs across the country are providing students with the opportunity to explore engineering activities and careers. According to America After 3PM, 10.2 million children (18 percent) currently participate in afterschool programs. Sixty-nine percent of parents said their child’s afterschool program offered STEM programming, and 30 percent said these programs offered engineering and technology activities. To do the math, this means that over 3 million students are receiving engineering programming in afterschool programs.

The flexibility of afterschool allows providers to make engineering activities engaging and well-suited for the needs of the community. Programs are choosing topics relevant to kids’ interests while leveraging community partners—including science museums, zoos and aquaria, universities and businesses—and engaging parents in the learning process.

We’d like to highlight three programs that are providing impressive opportunities and outcomes for the students and families they serve.

SHINE

The SHINE After School Program, in Jim Thorpe, PA, exemplifies how rural programs can provide quality engineering education by using local resources and expertise. The program serves over 600 K-12 students and their families, with the majority of participants coming from low-income families and having special or remedial needs. In this program, 4th and 5th graders complete hands-on activities that focus on engineering, the health sciences and green energy, which introduces them to careers in those fields while improving their problem-solving skills. In middle school, students advance to a program held at a local technical center where they have access to Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and shop machinery. Working with college interns and high school mentors, middle school teams complete six engineering projects over the course of the academic year. One project is to build a “car of the future,” first designing the car in CAD, then cutting precision machined parts, and finally constructing the life-size derby car.

In a 2011-2012 evaluation, parents of middle school students observed an improvement in their children’s ability to use technology (86 percent) and in math skills (68 percent). Additionally, 95 percent of students in the middle school academy were excited about STEM careers, and 97 percent of 4th and 5th graders understood what an engineer does.

OCT
7
2016

STEM
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R+P Fellowship accepting applications for STEM educators and researchers

By Elizabeth Tish

The Research + Practice Fellowship program, created by the Research + Practice Collaboratory, supports STEM educators and researchers in learning from one another by attending each other’s professional conferences.  The R + P fellowship, which will give fellows up to $2000 in 2017 to attend professional conferences, is now accepting applications through November 4.

Educators might attend one of these research conferences:

Researchers might attend one of the following educator conferences:

 Things to keep in mind before submitting your fellowship application:

  1. Why apply? “The theory and research was totally talking to my experience” – Bart Evans, afterschool STEM educator, on attending the 2016 American Educational Research Association (AERA) Conference
  2. Who should apply? K-12 teachers, educational leaders, informal learning educators, researchers, designers, developers, and graduate students are all encouraged to apply.

Applications are due November 4, so apply now!

SEP
2
2016

STEM
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How afterschool-library partnerships are engaging kids in STEM

By Robert Abare

A social media graphic designed by the Afterschool Alliance to promote afterschool-library partnerships.

The Afterschool Alliance has partnered with the Science Technology Activities and Resources Library Education Network (STAR_Net) to highlight the ways afterschool programs are partnering with local libraries to introduce kids to valuable science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning experiences. A project of the Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning, STAR_Net unites an array of partner organizations to provide interactive STEM exhibits, programming and training to public libraries nationwide.

Often regarded as quiet places for kids to read or study, local libraries are revealing their potential to get kids learning in dynamic ways—from hands-on learning exhibits to conducting science experiments. STAR_Net is helping libraries engage their communities with many of the following resources, made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation:

  • Large, hands-on exhibits that are currently traveling to various public libraries across the USA. The exhibits—Discover Space, Discover Earth and Discover Tech—introduce kids to various scientific arenas.
  • Online and in-person training for library staff, which introduces them to the STEM content of the exhibits, and guides them in developing complementary programming.
  • A public awareness campaign, led by the Afterschool Alliance, to promote STAR_Net exhibits or resources among the afterschool field and highlight afterschool-library partnerships on social media with a series of shareable graphics.

How STAR_Net can bring more STEM to your program

STAR_Net also offers a number of resources that afterschool programs can use to develop quality STEM programming and stay up-to-date on trends and activities in the STEM field.

  • Webinars and webinar recordings cover a range of topics, from an international celebration of the Moon to interactive citizen science projects.
  • Browse ongoing STAR_Net projects to learn more about their content and see if any exhibits are visiting a library near your program.
  • Online games can make STEM learning fun, like Starchitect, which has kids design their own solar systems.

How STAR_Net turned a library into a pop-up science museum

The Ypsilanti District Library in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan is just one of many local libraries that has used resources from STAR_Net to engage afterschool youth. The library has hosted a variety of exhibits since it opened, but STAR_Net's Discover Tech exhibit was the library’s first to incorporate dynamic, hands-on experiences that teach kids about STEM and its various applications.

“Historically, exhibits haven’t been hands-on in this way—which was new and exciting for the community!” said Kristel Sexton, Youth Services Librarian at the library. “For partners and organizations in the community, it helped them see libraries can do STEM. We can be experts in STEM, and we can support you in this.”

Afterschool-library partnerships are not only proving that libraries can be experts in STEM learning, they are creating mutually beneficial relationships to ensure kids are in safe, nuturing environments after school, and that kids are aware of all the resources available to them in their community.