Last week, the White House Science Fair hosted more than 100 students from across the U.S. to showcase their inventions and projects. Students, either individually or in teams, had won a variety of national and regional competitions in everything from rocketry, robotics and electric vehicles. Two of these teams represented afterschool programs! Pres. Obama toured the fair, meeting all of the students, and then announced new components of the Educate to Innovate initiative, including an expansion of the STEM AmeriCorps program and a national STEM mentoring effort.
Thanks to our partnership with the Association of Science-Technology Centers (ASTC), nearly 20 young people and their adult chaperones joined us from the New Jersey Academy of Aquatic Sciences in Camden; the Newark Museum in Newark, N.J.; The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Penn.; the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md.; and the Natural History Museum of Utah in Salt Lake City. Check out the blog ASTC has posted about their experience. We envisioned this year's participation as a pilot effort and hope to make it even bigger next year with more science centers participating in the Afterschool for All Challenge. A big thank you to our ASTC partners for working with us to make all of this happen. Join the ASTC STEM Afterschool Community of Practice if you'd like to engage in this conversation with us.
As many of you have heard by now, the informal science education (ISE) field recently lost one of its greatest champions—Dr. Alan Friedmann, a physicist, former director of the New York Hall of Science, a trustee of the Noyce Foundation, a former board member of the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB); his credentials make for a long list. There have been many wonderful op-eds, blogs, and tributes paid to him already—see for example, the moving “Thinking of Alan” page at the New York Hall, the New York Times article, and the blog post from the Coalition for Science After School. They all serve to not only celebrate his life and accomplishments but also underscore just how deep our loss is and how much of an impact he had on the ISE field and the individual people in this field.
I had known of Alan for a long time but started working with him only when I came to the Afterschool Alliance in 2010 and started working closely with the Noyce Foundation. In my new role as an advocate for afterschool STEM education, I learned a great deal about advocacy from him. He was such an enthusiastic and tireless advocate for ISE and afterschool that he gave me hope and much-needed support when I felt demoralized and lonely in the fight. I treasured how gentle and humble he was for such a distinguished scholar and how unfailingly kind he was to me and all who met him.
Last week, we hosted a webinar addressing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). As the first of what will likely be an ongoing series of webinars, we started with a brief outline of the standards and heard from one afterschool program on what they were doing around NGSS.
Katelyn Wamsted, director of programs at Girlstart, explained why they have aligned their curriculum with NGSS. Despite being located in Texas, a state that has not adopted Common Core or NGSS, Girlstart believes it's important to demonstrate their commitment to high quality STEM education, which they believe is reflected in the NGSS. Girlstart also participates in national conversations about out-of-school-time programming. Katelyn walked us through two examples of how they align curriculum to both NGSS and the Texas State Standards (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills or TEKS).
Afterschool can play a key role in helping schools plan for and implement NGSS. The quality and strength of partnerships emerged as an important theme within the webinar. Katelyn gave her best practices for partnering with schools and described how Girlstart hosts internships for preservice teachers to facilitate their afterschool and summer programs.
This weekend’s USA Science & Engineering Festival drew more than 325,000 kids and their families to downtown D.C. Hundreds of exhibitors brought along hands-on activities, demonstrations, and the latest in science and tech. Science celebrities made appearances, including They Might Be Giants and Bill Nye the Science Guy.
Studio STEM traveled all the way from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, with their solar-powered LEGO cars. Baltimore-based Digital Harbor brought along several of their high school students to show off creations made on a 3-D printer. Visitors were also able to play MaKey MaKey banana bongos with the Boys & Girls Club of Harford County. On Sunday, kids created floating sculptures with FutureMakers and tested them out in giant wind tubes. We were even visited by MIT’s Sky Diving team, who explained that they actually practice in human-sized wind tubes, similar to what FutureMakers had!
Science Learning+ will provide up to $14.4 million to support research into how learning happens outside the classroom, exploring the most effective practices and building the evidence base in this area. The aims are:
- To learn more about, evaluate and maximize the impact of informal learning experiences
- To improve understanding of how informal environments may help to widen access to STEM for youth from all backgrounds
One-year-long Planning Grants (proposals due on July 10, 2014) will enable initial collaboration and idea development. Partnership Grants (due in 2015), will fund research activities for up to five years.
Science Learning+ funding is particularly aimed at encouraging collaborative projects between researchers and practitioners in the U.S. and U.K., developing stronger links and partnerships internationally, and building a learning community for exchanging experience and expertise.
This blog post was contributed by Laura Batt, director of educational programs at JASON Learning, an exploration-based organization that links students to real science and scientists. Laura works in JASON's out-of-school-time division, Immersion Learning, which focuses on developing multi-media ocean science curricula.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we wanted to recognize the incredible work being done in the afterschool field to encourage and support girls in STEM. Below are a selection of recent publications and a list of girl-serving afterschool and summer programs actively working on the best ways to engage girls in STEM learning.
And for a bit of history, all this month, the National Girls Collaborative Project is highlighting women who have made and are currently making a significant impact in the STEM fields.
What resources would you add to this list? Add your comments below or send us a tweet @afterschool4all!
- SciGirls Seven: How to Engage Girls in STEM (2013)
- Effective STEM programs for adolescent girls: Three Approaches and Many Lessons Learned (2013)
- Build IT: Scaling and Sustaining an Afterschool Computer Science Program for Girls (2012)
- Project Exploration’s Sisters4Science: Involving Urban Girls of Color in Science Out of School (2010). For a summary, see this research brief.
- The Girl Game Company: Engaging Latina Girls in Information Technology (2009). For a summary see this research brief.
- Evaluating Promising Practices in Informal Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education for Girls (2008). From the Girl Scouts of the USA.
- Encouraging Girls in Math and Science: A Practice Guide (2007). From the Institute of Educational Sciences and the Department of Education.