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STEM Snacks
AUG
27

STEM
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After passing the House, STEM Education Act moves to Senate

By Sophie Papavizas

The bipartisan STEM Education Act, H.R. 5031 introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), passed the House last month and is now in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. The bill has three 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
  3. Extends eligibility for NSF’s Noyce Teacher Fellowship program to teachers pursuing master’s degrees in their fields

Of particular interest to the out-of-school field, the bill gives a directive to NSF to continue awarding grants and using funds to support informal and out-of-school STEM learning with the goal of increasing engagement in STEM and improving learning outcomes.  Grants and funding would support existing and new programs in places such as museums and science centers.

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learn more about: Congress Education Reform Federal Policy Legislation School Improvement Science Academic Enrichment
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AUG
4

STEM
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Guest blog: Help develop evaluation tools for STEM out-of-school-time programs!

By Melissa Ballard

This post was written by Amy Grack Nelson, an evaluator and researcher in the Science Museum of Minnesota’s Department of Evaluation and Research in Learning. 

 

 

 

Teamwork and collaboration are essential 21st century skills and becoming increasingly vital to the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Afterschool programs are important environments for youth from diverse backgrounds to develop the teamwork and collaboration skills they need to enter and prosper in the STEM workforce. To help evaluators and practitioners evaluate the development of these skills, the University of Minnesota and the Science Museum of Minnesota are conducting research to develop surveys to measure teamwork and collaboration skills in STEM out-of-school-time (OST) programs. Both institutions have a long history in their commitment to STEM and afterschool education and will be working closely with STEM OST programs throughout the research process to ensure the final surveys are useful and relevant to the needs of a broad range of programs.

Before we can create surveys to evaluate these skills, we need to understand how STEM OST programs define teamwork and collaboration and how they are teaching these skills. We are inviting STEM OST educators to participate in an interview with a member of our research team about the teamwork and collaboration skills addressed in their program.  The interviews will last up to an hour and will take place over the phone. Educators will receive a $25 VISA pre-loaded card in appreciation for their time.  

We are looking for educators from a wide range of STEM OST programs that reach middle and high school youth. If you are interested in participating in this research, please fill out an interest form. We’ll then choose a sample of educators from those that express interest to help ensure we talk to a diversity of STEM OST programs.  Please fill out an interest form by Friday, Aug. 15.

If you have any questions about the study, please contact Amy Grack Nelson, Senior Evaluation & Research Associate at the Science Museum of Minnesota at 651-221-4575 or agnelson@smm.org.  

Thank you in advance for your help!

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learn more about: Evaluations Guest Blog Science Community Partners
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JUL
9

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Interactive toolkit to guide STEM role models toward success

By Taylor Moore

Techbridge has recently released a free, online interactive toolkit to help potential role models develop skills to engage girls and underrepresented youth in STEM.  The Role Models Matter Toolkit currently provides 10 mini-lessons for role models to help plan, structure and implement their visit with students.  Each unit comes with a video showing role model Josetta Jones, a patent attorney and chemical engineer, in action demonstrating each step to successfully interacting and communicating the lessons to the student participants.  The toolkit provides lessons on key topics like role model impact, ice breakers for relationship development, advice on using the engineering design process and guidance on how to connect the STEM experience to possible career options for the participants.  If you have any potential STEM role models looking to engage with youth, their work can benefit from this holistic toolkit approach.

Techbridge is a nonprofit based in Oakland, Calif., that offers science, engineering and technology-based afterschool and summer programs for girls.  Since 2000, the organization has engaged with more than 4,000 girls in grades 5-12 in hands-on learning and career exploration.  The Role Models Matter Toolkit is part of Techbridge’s Role Models Matter initiative to help prepare STEM professionals for outreach and is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation

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learn more about: Science Youth Development Community Partners
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JUL
8

STEM
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Guest blog: Building collaboration among afterschool and school-day educators at the Next Steps Institute

By Taylor Moore

Emily Vercoe is the director of the Next Steps Institute, a professional development program of Earth Force. Earth Force engages young people as active citizens in their communities by providing educators with tools, relevant resources, and support to inspire the next generation. Prior to her current role, Emily developed expertise in formal and informal science and STEM through work with the Wyoming NASA Space Grant Consortium, the Colorado Youth Program and the Boulder Valley School District.

 

The idea of partnerships is not a new one: we get by with a little help from our friends; it takes a village; many hands make light work.  Phrases like these indicate the importance of building communities of support to achieve a common goal.  At Earth Force, we believe the power of partnerships can create an enriching and interactive experience within STEM education. This is why this year’s Next Steps Institute (NSI) in Washington, D.C., will focus on Integrating STEM into Communities.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Science Community Partners
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JUL
7

STEM
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New paper: What are the impacts of afterschool STEM?

By Melissa Ballard

Today, many afterschool and summer programs include science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) as a standard part of their comprehensive programming.  Afterschool providers recognize the importance of improved STEM education for their students and that hands-on, inquiry-driven STEM is in line with afterschool’s overall approach to education.  Practitioners are able to directly see the impact afterschool STEM programs have on students—they see youth engaged in and excited about STEM activities, asking questions, and wanting to learn more.  However, funders, policy makers and other stakeholders often want data that substantiates such claims and demonstrates positive changes in a variety of outcomes: interest and engagement in science, greater knowledge of STEM careers, election of school science classes, and, sometimes, improved test scores in science and math.

In this new paper, “Examining the impact of afterschool STEM programs,” we overview some of the recent research findings about the importance of afterschool and other out-of-school time experiences for STEM learning.  We then summarize evaluation data from a selection of strong afterschool STEM programs and describe the types of substantive impacts these programs are having on participating youth.  Several themes emerged in our analysis:

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learn more about: Evaluations Science
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JUL
2

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Passing the torch: increasing opportunity for quality science learning

By Sarah Simpson

From March 26-28, 2014, the Coalition for Science After School (CSAS) hosted its final summit, Passing the Torch: Advancing Opportunity for Quality Science Learning. The summit was intended to:

  1. Celebrate a decade of progress in strengthening and expanding STEM learning opportunities in out-of-school time
  2. Call attention to critical issues in ensuring that all young people have opportunities for quality STEM experiences in their local communities
  3. Stimulate ideas, strategies, partnerships and commitments to continue to increase opportunities for quality STEM experiences across settings

The report of the summit proceedings, A Call to Action from the 2014 Coalition for Science After School Summit, focuses on 11 areas to continue to advance the STEM in out-of-school time field after CSAS sunset its operations last month. 

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Science
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JUN
30

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State university in Michigan receives $5 million endowment for summer STEM camps

By Melissa Ballard

On the heels of National Summer Learning Day, there’s great news for kids in Michigan.  Starting next year, Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU) will host summer STEM camps for middle and high school students, thanks to a gift from the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation.  The foundation awarded the university a $5 million endowment to establish the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow STEM Scholar Network, which will support SVSU’s summer camps, as well as sponsor undergraduate research projects.  The four-week, 160-hour middle school camp will reach 60 students and target those who are struggling academically. SVSU will also host three 80-hour high school camps reaching 36 students, with the goal to encourage more to pursue college degrees in science, technology, engineering and math.  SVSU students and school staff will serve as mentors in the summer camp, a model based on a 2012 pilot program at a local middle school.

Afterschool and summer STEM programs engage and excite kids with real-world, hands-on learning, giving them opportunities to think about the STEM fields in new ways.  Not only will SVSU’s summer camps help students avoid losing skills they’ve gained during the school year, but they will also help build interest and new capabilities in STEM.  We hope to hear great things from this initiative!

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learn more about: Science Summer Learning Community Partners
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JUN
29

STEM
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Supporting Afterschool STEM Act introduced to support technical assistance for afterschool providers

By Anita Krishnamurthi

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) has introduced a bill aimed at providing the supports afterschool practitioners need to offer high-quality science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education programs.  Titled the Supporting Afterschool STEM ActS.2543 will create a grant program that state and regional afterschool and STEM networks can tap into to help afterschool providers in their area give students engaging and high-quality STEM learning experiences. 

As STEM programming grows in afterschool settings, the need for technical assistance and professional development is also rising.  However, most funding is usually allocated to develop and implement programs.  This important legislation recognizes the need to provide resources that will help afterschool practitioners with their professional development and quality improvement efforts. 

The Supporting Afterschool STEM Act authorizes the National Science Foundation (NSF) to award three-year grants to existing afterschool or STEM networks, with 20 percent of all funding reserved to develop new afterschool or STEM networks in states or regions where they don't yet exist.  This bill will enable afterschool networks as well as STEM networks to provide the infrastructure needed for supporting high-quality afterschool STEM programs regionally.  It rightly draws on existing networks and their experience and expertise to assist new and existing afterschool STEM programs and increase the effectiveness of existing federal investments.  The effort would help afterschool programs nationwide develop activities and programming that works in other communities in their state.  The bill also encourages mentorship between students and federal STEM research grantees, and provides hands-on learning and exposure to STEM research facilities for young people.

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learn more about: Congress Federal Funding Legislation Science State Networks Sustainability
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