Members of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) were recently surveyed about afterschool programs in their schools, their involvement with the programs, and views on the role of afterschool science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning. The survey results indicate that school-day staff are highly involved in afterschool STEM and clearly believe the afterschool space can support students’ learning within school hours.
Close to 8 in 10 survey respondents identified as educators; the remaining worked as administrators (6%) or played other professional roles (15%). Respondents taught multiple subjects in their schools; most teach science (93%), and smaller numbers teach math (26%), technology (19%) and engineering (15%).
Approximately three-fourths of respondents have an afterschool program at their school, and 78% of those include a STEM component. Of those respondents in schools who don't have afterschool STEM offerings, more than 9 in 10 believe they should.
For the subset of respondents whose schools have STEM afterschool programs, the programs are largely run by the school itself (68%). Other common providers are community organizations such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, or Girls Inc. (15%); for-profit organizations (14%); universities or colleges (11%); and informal science education organizations like science centers or zoos (11%).
About 8 in 10 respondents participate in their school’s afterschool STEM programs. Of these, 85.1% are lead teachers and 14.9% are assistant instructors. Assistant instructors co-teach with other STEM teachers, community and parent volunteers, and local STEM professionals. Others who are not teaching or assisting in the classroom sometimes serve in a leadership role, such as a director or coordinator, and may also be involved in content development and instructor training.
Our very own STEM policy director, Dr. Anita Krishnamurthi, was part of the latest STEM Salon, a monthly discussion hosted by Change the Equation. Anita talks about the release of our latest report, Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool. Check out the new video:
We have just released our long-awaited report on STEM outcomes for youth in afterschool programs!
This report concludes a 10-month study, “Defining Youth Outcomes for STEM Learning in Afterschool,” that asked experienced afterschool providers and supporters to identify appropriate and feasible outcomes. Study participants identified a consensus on outcomes, indicators and sub-indicators that provide a framework to map how afterschool programs contribute to larger STEM education goals.
There was a clear consensus that afterschool programs help youth to:
- Develop an interest in STEM and STEM learning activities
- Develop capacities to productively engage in STEM learning activities
- Come to value the goals of STEM and STEM learning activities
There was also shared agreement that afterschool STEM programs are best positioned to impact indicators of learning in the following rank order:
- Active participation in STEM learning opportunities
- Curiosity about STEM topics, concepts or practices
- Ability to productively engage in STEM processes of investigation
- Awareness of STEM professions
- Ability to exercise STEM relevant life and career skills
- Understanding the value of STEM in society
We are kicking off the New Year with a new feature on our Afterschool Storybook—profiles of STEM afterschool programs. Examples and models of successful programs are often requested by the STEM afterschool field. The Afterschool Storybook tells the stories of people and communities transformed by afterschool programs as well as the staff, volunteers and participants who believe in the importance of out-of-school time. We hope that by providing profiles of high-quality afterschool STEM programs, we can offer the field a valuable resource. The STEM in Afterschool page features STEM-specific entries that can be sorted by program profiles, participants and professionals volunteering in afterschool programs.
Our first profile is from Girlstart in Austin, TX, an organization known for providing robust, award-winning out-of-school time programs for girls. The goal of each profile is to highlight the unique features of the program. Girlstart, for example, has a unique partnership to staff their programs with talented leaders and offer wrap-around services to engage parents. Profiles also report evaluation data and outcomes, and the funding sources behind these successful programs. Staff members personally answer questions about challenges the program has faced and offer advice for success.
Every month we’ll add a new program profile, so make sure to follow us on Twitter for the latest updates. We look to add programs that have a demonstrated history of success and a unique approach to providing STEM education in their communities. If you know of a high-quality afterschool STEM program with the potential to be featured in the Afterschool Storybook, please contact Melissa Ballard at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Results are in for the third year of the Investing in Innovation (i3) competition! The Department of Education announced its 20 highest-rated applications with projects addressing key issues in education. There were 844 applications submitted in three different grant categories:
- Scale-up grants of up to $25 million are awarded to programs that demonstrate the capacity to scale-up to the national, regional or state level
- Validation grants of up to $15 million are awarded to programs that could be scaled to a regional or state level
- Development grants of up to $3 million are intended to support less-established programs with a high potential of scalability
To actually receive the i3 grant money, applicants must find matching funds from the private sector before Dec. 7, 2012. For Validation awards, the applicant must match 10 percent and for Development awards, the amount required is 5 percent. In FY2012, the Department of Education chose not to select any Scale-up applications to allow for a higher number of Validation and Development applications.
Applicants chose 1 of 6 categories—or “Absolute Priorities”— to define the core strategies of the project. Examples include effective teachers or principals, high quality standards and assessments, and STEM. Additionally, applicants could select “Competitive Preference Priorities”—such as technology and early learning— to gain additional points toward their final review score. This round, there were five projects among the 20 highest-rated that identified “Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education” as their priority. One project identified rural education as a priority, but was also STEM-focused.
One of the selected grantees, the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, NV, proposed a multi-strategy initiative to engage their students in STEM education throughout middle school and high school. Notably, their plan includes out-of-school time (OST) experiences as an integral component to improving student performance and interest in STEM.
Jon W. Dudas is president of FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization that inspires an appreciation of science and technology in young people. FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and nearly $16 million available in college scholarships, FIRST hosts four robotics programs for students K – 12 and the annual FIRST Championship. For more information, visit www.usfirst.org.
I can remember when afterschool activities meant meeting the neighborhood kids for a game of kick ball in the street or at the local playground. Most of us stayed outside until our parents called us in for dinner. However, in today’s fast-paced society with many parents working outside the home—and even more negative influences preying upon our children—kickball and playgrounds no longer suffice. Parents are looking for more structure to keep their kids safe, to inspire learning, and to ignite new passions and interests. Parents want to get (and keep) their kids on the right path, and they need structured and engaging afterschool programs to achieve this. Unfortunately, the need for such solutions outpaces the supply. In communities nationwide, 15 million children are alone or unsupervised after school.
Afterschool programs are a natural partner in offering hands-on STEM learning opportunities—and afterschool providers around the country have enthusiastically embraced this idea! We know how crucial STEM skills are for workforce development and the types of creative, innovative learning that takes place within the afterschool environment. STEM afterschool programs have proven results and offer great possibility to play a role in broader STEM education reform.
However, getting that message to influential people in our communities can still be challenging. Effective local and state policies, as well as investments from other stakeholders are crucial to ensuring that quality STEM afterschool programs are available to the children in your community. There are many people and groups that can help you achieve this goal, but all have different perspectives on STEM education and afterschool learning. We know that sorting through these audiences’ needs, figuring out what to ask for and how best to support your case can feel overwhelming.
The Afterschool Alliance has developed a new toolkit to help you become an advocate for STEM in afterschool. “Making the Case for STEM Afterschool” walks you through the steps you’ll need to take to develop a strong case you can effectively present to any audience. It helps you tailor your message, identify data and talking points that support your case, learn about existing policy recommendations that help craft your ask, and see who you can enlist as an ally in your advocacy efforts.
Let us know how you like the advocacy toolkit and check back for periodic updates. Also be sure to check the STEM Policy page to stay updated on developments in national legislation, initiatives and reports that effect STEM afterschool.
We know finding funding for afterschool STEM programs is a major concern of program providers—it comes up during most conference presentations and when I am out talking to programs. We heard you and we did something about it. Today we released a resource to help you identify, sort through and take advantage of the many funding opportunities available for afterschool STEM! “Know Your Funders: A Guide to STEM Funding for Afterschool” was written in partnership with The Finance Project and developed with generous support from the Noyce Foundation.