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Afterschool Snack, the afterschool blog. The latest research, resources, funding and policy on expanding quality afterschool and summer learning programs for children and youth. An Afterschool Alliance resource.
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STEM Snacks
FEB
27

STEM
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Opportunity to partner with a library

By Dan Gilbert

Children building a “ball contraption” in the Discover Tech exhibit at Mary Wood Weldon Public Library. From: http://www.starnetlibraries.org/gallery.html

We’ve talked a lot about how science centers and museums can be great partners, and we wanted to let you know that libraries can be great partners as well.  That’s why the Afterschool Alliance is excited to introduce a great new partnership opportunity around STEM learning!

STAR_Net, a national initiative to bring museum-quality science exhibits into libraries, was developed by the National Center for Interactive Learning at the Space Science Institute, and has extended the invitation to libraries around the country to apply to host one of three interactive STEM exhibitsDiscover SpaceDiscover Earthand Discover Tech.

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learn more about: Science Community Partners
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FEB
24

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STEM Education Act reintroduced in House and headed to the floor today

By Sophie Papavizas

Congress has returned from the President’s Day recess, and while the Senate grapples with the Department of Homeland Security funding bill, the House will consider several education bills.  Among those bills is the bipartisan STEM Education Act (H.R. 102), which was reintroduced in the House on February 20, 2015 by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  The bill is considered non-controversial and passed under suspension of the rules last Congress with widespread bipartisan support but saw no action once passed to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.  The Afterschool Alliance wrote about the STEM Education Act last August when it was first introduced.

The STEM Education Act is a short bill with three main goals:

  1. It expands the definition of STEM education as it pertains to federally funded programs to include disciplines such as computer science;
  2. Grows programs at the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support informal STEM education activities; and
  3. Extends eligibility for NSF’s Noyce Teacher Fellowship program to teachers pursuing master’s degrees in their fields.

Let Congress know you support their commitment to afterschool STEM by contacting them today to discuss the STEM Education Act, the Supporting Afterschool STEM Act and the Afterschool for America’s Children Act!

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learn more about: Congress Federal Policy Science
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FEB
23

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Cognizant awards 34 grants to provide Maker programming in out-of-school time

By Sophie Papavizas

Cognizant has announced its grantees for the 2015 Making the Future program.  The program provides grants to community based organizations to run hands-on, Maker Movement-inspired programs in afterschool or summer camp settings.  This year, the 34 total grants will provide Maker programming to 5,000 students across 54 sites.  Working in partnership with the Maker Education Initiative and the New York Hall of Science , Cognizant committed in 2014 to providing 1.5 million hours of making experiences to 25,000 youth in over 200 communities by the end of 2017. Maker programs allow to students to be exposed to a range of STEM activities in informal and creative environments.

For more information about Maker spaces and Maker programs in afterschool check out our webinar series on making in afterschool—part 1part 2, and part 3.  And stay tuned for a spring webinar about equity and making with the Exploratorium’s Afterschool Tinkering NetworkCommunity Science Workshops and the Computer Clubhouse!

The 2015 grantees are:

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learn more about: Science
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FEB
18

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Guest blog: Help advance STEM education by participating in a brief survey

By Rachel Clark

Kelly Riedinger is the Director of Research and Evaluation at David Heil & Associates.

While there is a wealth of research-based knowledge in STEM education, there is currently no easily accessible, user-friendly resource for practitioners that bridges formal and informal (i.e., out-of-school) settings.  The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and the Association for Science-Technology Centers (ASTC) received an NSF Grant (Award No. 1420262) to develop, pilot, and evaluate a new resource that seeks to better connect practitioners in these settings with each other, and the rapidly growing research and knowledge base about STEM learning.  The proposed new resource will highlight successful curricula and programs that are based on STEM education research across formal and informal, out-of-school STEM education communities.

In collaboration with the NSTA and ASTC, David Heil & Associates, Inc. (DHA) is conducting a front-end study to gain insight regarding the potential for such a resource.  As part of this study, we are administering a survey to gather data and feedback. If you are a STEM afterschool program provider, we would like to invite you to participate in this survey.

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learn more about: Guest Blog Science
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FEB
12

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Educating Tomorrow's Engineers Act reintroduced in House

By Sophie Papavizas

Representatives Paul Tonko, Joe Kennedy, David McKinley, and Rodney Davis have reintroduced the Educating Tomorrow’s Engineers Act (H.R. 823), which seeks to amend several pieces of legislation to remove the barriers at the federal level for K-12 engineering education by amending the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and the Education Science Reform Act.

The legislation:

  • Ensures that engineering design skills are part of science standards in each state and authorizes the use of State Assessment Grants to integrate engineering into state science tests
  • Sets aside a portion of Title II funds for STEM professional development for STEM professional development through the Teacher and Principal Training and Recruitment Fund
  • Amends the Education Science Reform Act of 2002 to authorize the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to expand the scope of their research activities from sole math and science to include all STEM subjects with a focus on identifying best practices and promising innovations
  • Amends the Math and Science Partnership Program to include all STEM subjects encompassing engineering and computer science

For the afterschool community it is important to note that the bill also amends the section of Title 4 relating to 21st Century Community Learning Centers by expanding the current priorities of the program from “math and science” to STEM to allow the use of funds for afterschool programs in subjects such as engineering, technology and computer science instead of just mathematics and traditional science subjects like biology, chemistry and physics.  A similar change to include STEM is also included in the After School for America’s Children Act introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer last week.

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learn more about: Congress Federal Policy Science
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FEB
10

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Supporting Afterschool STEM Act reintroduced in House and Senate

By Sophie Papavizas

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) have reintroduced a bill today aimed at providing the supports afterschool practitioners need to offer high-quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs.  The Supporting Afterschool STEM Act will create a grant program that state and regional afterschool and STEM networks can tap into to help afterschool providers in their areas give students engaging and high-quality STEM learning experiences.

The new bill has minor changes from original bill, also sponsored by Sen. Shaheen in the 113th Congress.  The Afterschool Alliance wrote a detailed blog post last June describing the bill and what it means for the afterschool community. We commend Sen. Shaheen for continuing to be a champion for funding of support systems necessary to implement high-quality afterschool STEM programs in each state.  We will continue to work with Sen. Shaheen as well as the afterschool and STEM education communities to realize the vision of this legislation.

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learn more about: Congress Federal Policy Science
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FEB
3

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Department of Education announces new interagency collaborations for afterschool STEM

By Sophie Papavizas

In a January 30th press release, the Department of Education announced increased interagency collaborations in support of STEM learning in 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC).  Following on the success of a pilot NASA partnership, the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the National Park Service (NPS) will also partner with 21st CCLC programs to offer hands-on STEM learning based on real-world programs in out-of-school time.

See the press release for more details on the types of programming being offered and don’t forget to contact Congress to help protect the federal funding stream for 21st Century Community Learning Centers!

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Federal Policy Science
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FEB
2

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New year, new STEM education bills

By Sophie Papavizas

Each year in January, when many state legislatures start up fresh again, a large number of new bills appear and this year we’re seeing many relating to informal and formal STEM education.  Amongst the STEM-related bills appearing in the states is a bill sponsored by Montana State Senator Pat Connell to establish a pilot STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) summer school in the state, building on an existing afterschool STEAM program, to study best practices and possible future expansion of the afterschool program.  In New York, State Senator Joseph Robach has introduced legislation to start a grant program to encourage women and minorities to pursue careers in STEM.  In Mississippi, State Senator Derrick Simmons has proposed creating Innovation Schools and Innovation Zones to focus on STEM, with specific priority for STEAM and schools struggling to “raise outcomes for students.” 

Not all bills that appear are positive—state legislatures can get bogged down by bills focused on curriculum issues seen as controversial by some such as climate change and human evolution.  The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are also a major topic in many states.  NGSS have already been adopted by 13 states and the District of Columbia since the final version of the standards was released in April 2013.  West Virginia, the most recent state to adopt the standards, initially adopted modified standards, obscuring the intent of one of the standards that requires climate change to be taught as scientific fact, but changed their decision after receiving backlash from parents who circulated a petition calling for the adoption of the NGSS without modification.  Last year in Wyoming, the state legislature passed a budget footnote blocking the State Board of Education from considering NGSS.  Some state representatives questioned whether it was the legislature’s role to prevent the appointed State Board of Education from doing its job and the Wyoming House of Representatives recently passed a bill to remove the budget footnote.  Other states may soon face similar fights around STEM education—the Afterschool Alliance will be following closely.

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learn more about: Science State Policy
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