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STEM Snacks
DEC
10

STEM
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Guest blog: Hands-on STEM, all month long!

By Melissa Ballard

Written by Katelyn Wamsted, Director of Programs at Girlstart in Austin, TX. Girlstart provides year-round programming for girls and families including afterschool, summer camps, a yearly “Girls in STEM” conference, and community STEM events to get girls interested in STEM at an early age.

Throughout the month of December, Girlstart hosts DeSTEMber: 31 days of STEM fun! DeSTEMber highlights various STEM-related topics through hands-on activities, photos, and videos as part of a month-long program to drive awareness for STEM, showing kids that “STEM is everywhere”.

One of my favorite activities so far is Human Battleship. Fun, hands-on math activities can be hard to come by, but through creating a life-size version of Battleship, students learn about coordinate geometry and practice their spatial thinking skills.

New activities and full lesson plans posted every week at www.destember.org! You can also follow Girlstart on any of our various media channels to stay up-to-date.

Girlstart's mission is to increase girls’ interest and engagement in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) through innovative, nationally-recognized informal STEM education programs. We cultivate a culture where risk is rewarded, curiosity is encouraged, and creativity is expected. As a result, Girlstart girls are connected, brave, and resilient. Girlstart makes girls more successful, and inspires them to take on the world’s greatest challenges.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science Academic Enrichment
OCT
30

STEM
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Support your STEM work through a major grant from NASA!

By Robert Abare

As an organization that depends on legions of agile thinkers to explore and study our universe, NASA is deeply invested in encouraging robust education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). That’s why NASA’s Office of Education is leading an effort to support STEM education programs through an exciting new grant opportunity.

This opportunity, the “2015 Competitive Program for Science Museums, Planetariums and NASA Visitors Centers Plus Other Opportunities” (CP4SMPVC+)—try to pronounce that acronym!—aims to support ambitious STEM learning initiatives, typically spanning multiple years, and which can take root at a variety of educational institutions and youth-serving organizations. The program particularly seeks to reward projects that integrate NASA’s cutting edge research and development activities into curriculum development, teacher preparation, effective teaching practices, out of school activities and educational technology.

Interested in submitting a proposal? Here are some introductory facts you should know, but remember to read through the official grant description to make sure your organization or proposal meets all requirements.

What can I propose?

To study an example of a previously successful proposal, take a look at Girlstart’s project “Informal STEM Education for Girls” (located on page five of the linked document). With support from CP4SMPVC+, Girlstart implemented a new, NASA-rich STEM curriculum for its Girlstart Summer Camp program and Girlstart After School program, which seek to engage young women and their families in STEM learning and career opportunities.

OCT
22

STEM
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Guest blog: EngineerThat! Media Challenge launches on KQED.org

By Rachel Clark

Annelise Wunderlich is the Youth Participation Manager at KQED, which serves the people of Northern California with a community-supported alternative to commercial media .

In the spirit of Lights On Afterschool, KQED welcomes the afterschool community serving middle- and high-school students to join our national EngineerThat! media challenge. From October 22 – January 8, we invite young people to identify engineering problems in their schools, homes, and communities and share their solutions with us via social media. This is a great way for expanded-learning programs across the country to inspire youth to engage with their community, and get involved with real-world problem solving.

EngineerThat! is a simple way to introduce the engineering design process and develop 21st century skills. This is a youth-led activity that is designed to be flexible based on time and resources. Here’s how it works: young people talk with people in their communities to discover problems that can be solved through engineering. They don’t actually have to build a prototype – but they do have to use their imagination and digital media tools to share their solutions. They can do this in the following ways:

  • Create a short video (under 2 mins), image or infographic explaining the problem and their solution
  • Share it on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram with the hashtag #EngineerThat

KQED will showcase the most compelling solutions (and the youth who came up with them!) on our website and a public media program. This is an excellent opportunity to partner with public media and a chance for students to engage with community leaders to develop an understanding of challenges in their neighborhoods and come up with youth-driven solutions.  

Find out more here: http://ww2.kqed.org/quest/2015/10/16/engineerthat/

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science
OCT
21

STEM
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Need help speaking afterschool STEM-ish?

By Anita Krishnamurthi

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 it? If so, check out our new website: the Afterschool STEM Hub! Not only do we think it’s gorgeous, it has LOTS of tools you might find useful to tell a compelling story and inspire enthusiasm for STEM in afterschool.

The site offers compelling talking points you can download, Powerpoint slides you can present, and infographics you can print, share, post, pin, and tweet. It even features an animation you can use to show why afterschool programs are such crucial partners in STEM education. All of these resources are rooted in research and developed with guidance from the Frameworks Institute, an organization with great expertise in communications and messaging. So you can be assured: we have tested the words, values and metaphors we suggest you use to make a compelling case for afterschool STEM programs. 

The afterschool STEM Hub is a collaboration among afterschool leaders and stakeholders to provide coordinated messaging that impacts advocacy and policy, and that helps ensure the important place of afterschool programs in the STEM learning ecosystem. Led by the Afterschool Alliance, the STEM Hub is funded by the Noyce Foundation and includes the following organizations: 4-H, Association of Science-Technology Centers, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Cornell lab of Ornithology, Every Hour Counts, Exploratorium, Girls Inc., National Afterschool Association, National Girls Collaborative Project, Program in Education, Afterschool & Resiliency (PEAR), Statewide Afterschool Networks (represented by Oregon After School for Kids and Indiana Afterschool Network), Techbridge, The After-School Corporation, University of Virginia, and the YMCA of the USA.

Though the site has just been released, we will continue to update it with new resources through the coming months—so remember to look out for any announcements posted on Afterschool Alliance publications. For now, feel free to click your way to www.afterschoolstemhub.org, grab the resources that work best for you and start speaking STEM-ish today! 

OCT
13

STEM
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Infographic: Afterschool embraces STEM learning

By Robert Abare

New infographics released by the Afterschool Alliance illustrate the role of afterschool programs in meeting the growing demand for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning opportunities. The infographics accompany the recent release of our first-ever special report on STEM learning in afterschool, Full STEM Ahead: Afterschool Programs Step Up as Key Partners in STEM Education, based on our 2014 survey data from America After 3PM.

These infographics provide an easy way to share important facts about the ability of afterschool to answer modern challenges. STEM-related jobs, for instance, will grow at faster pace than jobs in other fields as companies continue to seek workers with basic STEM skills. Following this trend, a majority of parents say that afterschool programs should offer STEM opportunities.

Our new infographics also highlight the successes of the established STEM afterschool learning programs Techbridge and 4-H Tech Wizards. Techbridge aims to expand academic and career options for girls in STEM fields, and currently operates afterschool programs in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Greater Seattle Area and Washington, D.C. The organization has reached more than 15,000 girls in 15 years. 4-H Tech Wizards is an afterschool youth mentoring program for underserved youth in grades 4-12. The program operates in 25 states, and has engaged more than 8,000 participants.

Help us spread the word about the accomplishments of afterschool programs in STEM learning and the challenges still waiting to be met. Engage your network by including a STEM infographic in a post, pin, tweet, or Instagram! 

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learn more about: Science
OCT
12

STEM
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Guest blog: Reimagining the relationship between research + practice in afterschool

By Melissa Ballard

By Bronwyn Bevan and Michelle Choi.

Bronwyn Bevan is Director of the Exploratorium’s Institute for Research and Learning. She served on the National Research Council's Committee on STEM Learning in Out-of-School Time and is widely published on issues relating to STEM in afterschool.

Michelle Choi is the Project Director for the Research + Practice Collaboratory at the Exploratorium. Her professional interests focus on designing collaborative and creative learning experiences for in and out-of -school settings.

When was the last time you read a paper or column called “What Practice Says?” In the afterschool world, though the depth and breadth of research is growing, we often retain a silver bullet rhetoric that positions research as having the answers and practice as having the questions.

But is that your experience?

There’s both common experience and actual research showing that research results frequently don’t stick and even more frequently don’t scale. At the Research + Practice Collaboratory we believe this is because research designs often fail to formally take into account the knowledge and practical realities of educators not only in the design and implementation of the studies, but also in the very framing of the research questions.

Although the field frequently looks to research to justify or prove the efficacy of our programs, in fact research is about knowledge production – it’s intended to develop insights into problems, solutions, and strategies. As research demands and activities continue to grow in afterschool, it’s worth considering how you or your organization might participate in partnerships that could produce results that you could use to strengthen your programs. 

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science
OCT
9

STEM
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STEM Education Act of 2015 signed into law

By Anita Krishnamurthi

H.R. 1020, the STEM Education Act of 2015, has been signed into law by the President of the United States.  This bill is relevant to the afterschool community as it is very supportive of informal science education (which it defines as learning outside of the classroom at places like museums, science centers, and afterschool programs). H.R. 1020 directs the National Science Foundation (NSF) to maintain a priority in this area; specifically, it states that the NSF should “continue to award competitive, merit-reviewed grants to support:

  1. research and development of innovative out-of-school STEM learning and emerging STEM environments to improve learning outcomes and engagement in STEM; and
  2. research that advances the field of informal STEM education.

This bill is derived from language that was in the House version of the America COMPETES bill in the 113th Congress.  The Afterschool Alliance provided many comments to Congressional staff and allies on the language around informal STEM in that version, many of which were adopted. The language around STEM education was pulled out and introduced as H.R. 5031 in the 113th Congress and re-introduced as H.R. 1020 in the 114th Congress. This is the version that has now been signed into law and it reflects the increasing recognition of the importance of afterschool STEM programs.  

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learn more about: Federal Policy Legislation Obama Science
OCT
7

STEM
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The Hour of Code is coming: Mark your calendars for December 7-13, 2015!

By Melissa Ballard

We know you’re right in the middle of planning an awesome Lights On Afterschool event, but don’t forget to mark your calendars for the 2015 Hour of Code, December 7-13!

The Hour of Code is a one-hour introduction to computer science, designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. Kids of all ages—from elementary to high school—choose from several tutorials to make a video game, animation, and more!

Sign up to host an Hour of Code during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 7-13) at hourofcode.com.

Supports for afterschool educators

This year, Code.org developed a brand-new guide especially for afterschool educators.

  • Need more guidance? Download this template lesson plan.
  • Want more teaching ideas? Here are some best practices from experienced educators.
  • Join us on Nov. 11 at 1PM ET for a special webinar with experts from Code.org!

Prizes for every host site

Every participating afterschool host will receive a thank-you gift. Sign up now to hear first about more prizes and new Hour of Code tutorials coming soon — some of the most exciting to date!

100,000 classrooms

Our friends at Code.org want to reach 100,000 Hour of Code events around the world in December. We know that afterschool engages millions of kids in STEM learning: be one of the organizers who proves anybody can learn, and every young person deserves to learn how to build technology that will impact everything in their futures.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Science