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STEM Snacks
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.

AUG
19
2016

STEM
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Guest blog: Help kids reach for the stars with YouthAstroNet

By Rachel Clark

Written by Erika Wright, Science Education Specialist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory.

How do we translate young people’s intrinsic curiosity about space science into increased interest in STEM careers, particularly among girls and those from underserved communities? That is exactly what the Science Education Department at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics intends to learn through our YouthAstroNet Program and accompanying research project. You can apply to host your own YouthAstroNet program, and receive free training, curriculum, and access to the experts on the YouthAstroNet Team!

What is YouthAstroNet?

The Harvard-Smithsonian Youth Astronomy Network (YouthAstroNet) is an online community of youth, educators, and scientists that aims to help youth typically underrepresented in the sciences gain confidence and identity as someone who can do science through unique access to the resources of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. YouthAstroNet engages youth in grades 5-8 in a number of hands-on STEAM-related activities from image processing to engineering/design challenges. As a member of the YouthAstroNet community youth can take their own images using remotely controlled robotic telescopes, process those images using a professional-grade image-processing tool to learn more about space, and even speak directly with scientist mentors from the Center for Astrophysics. 

Contribute to the research

In addition to being a diverse online community, YouthAstroNet is an NSF-funded research project that aims to determine what strategies have the highest impact when it comes to turning interest in space into belonging and career aspirations in the STEM fields. By participating in the program, and utilizing the online portal with your youth, you and your students will provide valuable data about program factors that lead to positive outcomes for youth.

Join the network!

Educators from every style of learning institution—from afterschool programs to museums to traditional classrooms—are invited to join the network with their youth and utilize resources in a way that best suits their learning environment. No prior astronomy knowledge is required. Through a 3-week asynchronous online workshop, educators are trained to use robotic telescopes, image processing software, and the interactive portal itself, as well as given access to a proven set of hands-on curriculum. Following participation in the training, educators will have ongoing access to the wide array of learning resources, as well as support from YouthAstroNet staff.

Important Dates

Application Deadline: August 24, 2016 is the formal deadline, but applications will be continue to be reviewed for the following week.

Informational Webinars: August 29 at 3:30pm ET and 6:30pmET and August 30 at 1:00pm ET and 4:30pm ET

Asynchronous Training: September 7th–21st

If you are interested in participating, please complete this brief survey. For more information, check out our Recruitment Flyer.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science
AUG
4
2016

STEM
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The Next Generation Science Standards: what do they mean for afterschool?

By Robert Abare

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) offer a powerful new vision for American science education for the 21st century. NGSS brings long-needed reforms to national and state K-12 science education standards, incorporating decades of new research on how students best learn science—by actively investigating topics and solving real-world problems, just like real scientists and engineers do!

So far, NGSS has been adopted by 16 states and the District of Columbia, as well as several individual schools and districts. If it hasn’t already, NGSS will soon be influencing how your students are expected to learn STEM. To help program providers understand how afterschool fits in to the NGSS, the Afterschool Alliance has developed a new guide, Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standards.

Key components of our new NGSS guide

  • An explanation and history of how NGSS was developed and who the key collaborators were.
  • The underlying philosophy of the NGSS, which encourages kids to learn science by doing.
  • An overview of the standards themselves.
  • How afterschool providers can work with partner schools and use NGSS as a way to improve their practice.

Back in April, we hosted a webinar that digs into the research behind the standards, and offers a couple examples of how afterschool programs are thinking about NGSS. Watch the recording, and stay tuned for our next NGSS-related webinar in September.

In the meantime, we hope you’ll enjoy Getting Started with the Next Generation Science Standards, and share it with other educators who might find this resource useful!

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learn more about: Issue Briefs School Improvement Science
JUL
19
2016

STEM
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Changing the game for girls in STEM

By Erin Murphy

A new white paper from the nationally-recognized STEM education provider Techbridge calls for a more sophisticated approach to engaging girls in STEM. Across the U.S., girls are growing up in cities and regions bustling with innovation, yet many do not consider careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) due to lack of encouragement and opportunity. Meanwhile, STEM jobs are growing at an unprecedented rate, and companies are scrambling to build diversity in their workforce. Closing the opportunity gap for girls, especially for girls of color, will open up a tremendous untapped pool of talent.

Disappointingly, many previous and ongoing efforts to engage girls and minorities in STEM have had a hard time moving the needle. This paper draws upon Techbridge’s 16 years of experience in successfully improving outcomes for girls in STEM, as well as interviews from STEM education leaders in order to spotlight the most effective ways to foster diversity and inclusion in the workforce. The paper reveals two broad strategies to engineer a revolution in STEM diversity:

  • Design with diverse girls and communities in mind. Make sure to understand who will be in your program and customize programming and curriculum. Girls from different communities will have different wants and needs. Program designers should listen to the voices from the communities they serve.
  • Strengthen the girl-centric ecosystem. There are many factors that will influence the likelihood of girls to pursue STEM, so building strong community partnerships is key. Embrace an ecosystem approach and build partnerships between programs and families. Additionally, build relationships between programs and STEM industries to train female role models who can work with girls.
JUL
14
2016

STEM
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Victories for STEM education in recent legislative activity

By Anita Krishnamurthi

As the legislative season winds down, several wins for afterschool STEM education have emerged. Most recently, on July 13-14 the House Appropriations Committee marked up the fiscal year 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) funding bill. The bill maintains funding for 21st CCLC at the current level of $1.16 billion, which is very good news! As you might recall, the Senate version of the bill cut afterschool by $117 million, in line with President Obama's budget request.

Informal STEM education has bright outlook in new bills

STEM is increasingly an integral part of afterschool programs, so the House's proposed funding level for 21st CCLC will ensure that millions of children will continue to have access to STEM learning opportunities. The House education spending bill also provides $1 billion for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program, the new block grant in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Although this is lower than the authorized level of $1.65 billion, the House appropriation puts the funding at $700 million over the Senate LHHS bill and $500 million above the President’s budget request. STEM education advocates are breathing a collective sigh of relief, as this grant was designed to be a formula grant for districts to use toward a wide range of activities, including STEM programing (with very supportive language about partnerships with afterschool programs), arts education and counseling services. House appropriators have indicated their strong support for the initiative with this funding level, but the final outcome is far from guaranteed as the Senate and House numbers will have to be reconciled eventually.

On July 7, 2016, the House Education and the Workforce Committee held a full committee markup of H.R. 5587, The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Actwhich you may know better as the Perkins CTE bill. The update includes changes that recognize the role of afterschool and summer programs in preparing young people for the workforce, and explicitly includes community-based organizations as eligible entities for funding. The bill has provisions for states to award grants that provide “support for programs and activities that increase access, student engagement, and success in STEM fields (including computer science), especially for underrepresented groups.” This provision could be very beneficial for afterschool STEM programs, especially when combined with the new expanded eligibility for starting these activities in the 5th grade (compared to the previous limit of 7th grade). 

Finally, the Senate Commerce Committee marked up S. 3084, the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act, which encompasses plan to reauthorize the America COMPETES Actin late June. This bill authorizes the various federal science mission agencies, such as NASA, NOAA, NSF, Dept. of Energy etc., including their significant investments in STEM education. There are several key elements of the bill that are supportive of informal/afterschool STEM programming: