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FEB
12

STEM
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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
11

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  February 11, 2015

By Luci Manning

Teenage Chess Whiz From Fair Lawn Teaches Young Players (The Record, New Jersey)

After school eager Fairmount Elementary School students line up across from each other on a block-tiled linoleum floor resembling a giant chessboard. At Greg Gabovich’s command, they walk forward until they’re standing diagonally opposite each other and high five, demonstrating how a pawn can conquer another piece in chess. High school senior and internationally-ranked competitive chess player Gabovich created the Chessmates afterschool program a year ago, crediting the game with helping him develop analytical thinking and a love for math. “The thing is, if you can tie education to a student’s passion, the student is going to do better in all aspects of their education,” Scott Demeter, Gabovich’s former history teacher who helped him draft interactive lessons for Chessmates, told The Record.

Educational Puzzles Solved Together on Challenge Island (The News & Observer, North Carolina)

Sometimes, it takes creative methods to get kids to learn. In the case of the Challenge Island afterschool program, the lesson plans borrow some of the methods – and challenges – from the popular reality show, “Survivor.” Challenge Island is an afterschool program for elementary students that reinforces STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and core language arts skills through hands-on learning encouraging children to work together to come up with innovative solutions. “Kids really learn to work together, using the scientific method, designing, testing, revising and testing until complete,” owner Tom Harrington told the News & Observer. Harrington said he is especially impressed with the collaboration among students. “Usually, children don’t start to learn to work like that until middle school but we’re doing it in first grade,” he said.

For STEAM Studio Students, Class Is in the Architects’ Loft (Kansas City Star, Missouri)

Around 3:30 in the afternoon, a group of young girls in Kansas City gather in the third-floor loft space of the architectural firm Gould Evans, an unconventional classroom known as STEAM Studio. The “anti-classroom” is the brainchild of Rockhurst University assistant professor of education Mandi Sonnenberg, who aims to inspire students to be more innovative and encourage non-traditional thinking by bringing them to unusual creative spaces for learning. On this particular afternoon, the girls’ only assignment is to explore and create using the firm’s supplies to bring their design ideas to life through fabric, white paper, scissors and glue.  “The collaboration began earlier this school year as Rockhurst University enlisted afterschool groups to pilot the program,” the Kansas City Star reports.

San Jose Mayor Unveils Plans for After-School Programs, Teen Jobs (Contra Costa Times, California)

In one of his first new initiatives as mayor, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo unveiled a plan to spend public money to provide afterschool programs to city kids and teens. Mayor Liccardo said the youth programs would help address two key issues in San Jose: public safety and the wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots. The Contra Costa Times reports, “Expanding afterschool programs is a popular strategy for city officials across the country to redirect trouble-prone kids into constructive activities like sports and music. Liccardo’s plan would target K-5 students and focus mostly on academic programs.”

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learn more about: Science Arts
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FEB
10

STEM
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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
4

NEWS ROUNDUP
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Weekly Media Roundup  February 4, 2015

By Luci Manning

Imagination Soars at Library’s Science Program (Riverdale Press, New York)

At the Riverdale Library Afterschool Science Program, students learned how to fly their own planes – the paper kind, that is. Last week’s flight-centered program taught students about lift, drag and thrust, and then engineered their own paper planes for a flying competition. Students experimented with various folding techniques to make their planes fly faster and straighter. “The normal way is that you’re supposed to fold the top down all the way, but this time, I folded it less, which makes it better and more aerodynamic,” 10-year-old Matteo Cereola told the Riverdale Press. Competition winners received admission tickets to the Museum of Natural History.

Providence Tech Initiatives Inspire Middle, High School Students (Brown Daily Herald, Rhode Island)

Two new afterschool programs in Providence are connecting college and middle-school students. Girls Who Code and Intracity Geeks both launched afterschool programs last month to teach middle school students how to code.  Brown students act as assistant teachers and “heroes” to youth. Intracity Geeks founder and executive director Claude Arnell Millhouse told the Brown Daily Herald, “My vision is to combat income inequality with access.”  He wants his students to show their friends how to code and create momentum “towards a society in which coding is cool and inclusive.” 

After-School Program at Holy Name Lets Kids Fiddle, Tinker, Create ‘Whatever They Want’ (Omaha World-Herald, Nebraska)

During Maker’s Workshop day at the Holy Name afterschool program, one boy was removing wires from a computer tower, another was dismantling a cellphone and others were plugging a battery pack into globs of electricity-conducting dough to power tiny LED lights. Holy Name technology and grant coordinator Karen Smolinski said she started the weekly afterschool program to give kids a place where they could use their hands and minds to build and create without anyone telling them what to do. “When I say whatever they want, it’s whatever they want. We just let them go on whatever we have materials for,” she told the Omaha World-Herald. The workshop echoes the national “maker movement” where adults and youth are encouraged to tinker, build and make.

Lessons Continue on Challenger Explosion, Hometown Hero (Carteret County News-Times, North Carolina)

On the 29th anniversary of the Challenger explosion, students in the Beaufort Elementary School Boys & Girls Club afterschool program received a history lesson on the Challenger and the U.S. space program. The lesson was inspired by a mini-museum in the school lobby honoring the late Challenger commander Capt. Michael J. Smith, a town native. For the past week, students learned about items in the museum, did Internet research, filled out worksheets and colored pictures related to the Challenger. Second-grader Analise Kubik told the Cateret County News-Times that after learning about the Challenger, she would like the chance to meet Capt. Smith’s family. “I also think it would be really cool to go in space and see things like the moon,” she said. 

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FEB
3

STEM
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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
3

POLICY
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The president's FY2016 budget: An afterschool and summer learning perspective

By Erik Peterson

On February 2, President Obama released his budget request for the upcoming 2016 fiscal year, which begins this October.  The president requested $1.152 billion for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC) —reflecting the same funding level as the current 2015 fiscal year.  Unlike his previous budget requests, the president’s proposal appears to keep 21st CCLC as a formula grant that flows to state education agencies, with states holding a competitive grant process at the state level.  The proposal from previous years to turn 21st CCLC into a national competitive grant competition is not included in the proposal this year.  However, as in past years, the budget proposal does propose using 21st CCLC grant funding for new purposes including adding time to the traditional school day or year, and for teacher planning and professional development.  The budget proposal comes as ESEA reauthorization efforts in the Senate HELP Committee seek to eliminate 21st CCLC.

In a challenging budget environment in which many programs face consolidation or elimination, the proposed level funding for 21st CCLC in the budget request demonstrates the importance and value of afterschool and summer learning programs.  Yet, we know that even with this strong support, more than 11 million students remain unsupervised after school and the parents of almost 20 million students would like their children to be in programs but they are unavailable, unaffordable or both.

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learn more about: 21st CCLC Budget Federal Funding Federal Policy Obama
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FEB
2

STEM
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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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JAN
30

POLICY
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More than 260 groups call on Senate HELP Committee to support 21st CCLC afterschool

By Erik Peterson

Today a broad coalition of 266 local, state and national organizations urged the Senate HELP Committee to maintain the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) initiative as a separate and specific federal funding stream for school and community partnerships to support students in grades Pre-K through 12 during the hours outside of the school day.  Quality afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs provide young people with the academic, social and emotional learning opportunities they need to be successful in school and in life.

Organizations ranging from the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC) and the Food Research and Action Center, to the American Heart Association and the National Education Association, all came together on the letter because of the broad value of afterschool and summer learning programs as a platform to make a difference in the lives of children.  Whether it is inspiring girls to pursue a STEM career or providing a venue to offer a nutritious meal and vigorous physical activity, comprehensive afterschool programs funded by 21st CCLC since 2001 positively impact more than 1 million school-age children each year.  The letter comes in response to Senate HELP Committee Chairman Alexander’s discussion draft ESEA bill, which would eliminate 21st CCLC and replace it with a block grant that could be used for afterschool and summer learning or a variety of in-school student supports.  

The full text of the letter along with signing organizations including groups from 35 states and more than 50 leading national organizations can be viewed here and follows below.  Maximize the impact by emailing your Senators and urging them to support 21st CCLC—take action now!

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learn more about: 21st CCLC ESEA Federal Funding Federal Policy
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